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by Mark Zalewski
March 25, 2017
In today’s CyclingTips Daily News Digest: Van Avermaet sprints Gilbert to win Flanders warm-up in Harelbeke; Valverde wins Catalunya queen stage, takes lead; Skujinš wins Coppi e Bartali stage, takes over lead; Multiple crashes in E3 Harelbeke; Owain Doull says current Sky riders should not be rolled into doping controversy; Patrick Lefevere ‘Founder of Gent-Wevelgem turning in his grave’; Sean Kelly on how to reform cycling; Women’s E3 Harelbeke in 2018?; Two SEG Racing Academy riders sidelined with injuries; Veenendaal-Veenendaal Classic will run in 2017; Irish company turns to crowdfunding to broadcast domestic events; Video: Dr. Mitch Anderson’s 12hr World Record.
Olympic road champion Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) won a three-man, all-Belgian sprint to win the Record Bank E3 Harelbeke, a Tour of Flanders warm-up race held nine days before De Ronde. Van Avermaet out-sprinted Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors) and Oliver Naesen (AG2R La Mondiale) to take his first victory at Harelbeke.
It was Van Avermaet’s second win on Belgian soil in 2017, adding to his victory at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, putting him in pole position as the big favorite for next weekend’s Ronde van Vlaanderen.
“The strongest riders are on the podium,” Van Avermaet said. “We all deserved the victory.”
The group rode together back into Harelbeke, with no further attacks until the final kilometer. Naesen was first to launch, at about 250 meters to go, and though he opened a small gap, Van Avermaet closed it and held off Gilbert to take his first Harelbeke victory.
“I am pleased that the condition is good, but I’d loved to have won,” Gilbert told Sporza. “I was just surprised at the sprint, but you can say what you want:. You must cross the finish line first.”
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