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E3 Saxo Bank Classic to test Tour of Flanders favourites – Preview

At this time of the year in Belgium, every race is viewed through the optic of what it means for the Tour of Flanders, and…

Friday, Mar 25

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At this time of the year in Belgium, every race is viewed through the optic of what it means for the Tour of Flanders, and no event offers reliable pointers quite like the E3 Saxo Bank Classic in Harelbeke.

The Omloop Het Nieuwsblad-Tour of Flanders double has notoriously never been done, but notching up wins in Harelbeke and the Ronde in the same year has become almost commonplace since Johan Museeuw first managed it in 1998. It’s been achieved eight more times since, most recently by Kasper Asgreen , who showcased his staying power and peak of form to win both races a year ago.

Asgreen’s return to the fray marks one of the key subplots to Friday’s race. Although QuickStep-AlphaVinyl have already notched up 14 wins this season, they were strangely subdued at Omloop and struggled to make any impression at Milan-San Remo in the absence of Asgreen and Julian Alaphilippe .

With the world champion sparing himself for the Ardennes Classics, QuickStep’s long-standing status as the strongest collective outfit on the cobbles suddenly seems in question. But a victory – or at the very least, a race on their terms – in Harelbeke, would go a long way towards assuaging doubts ahead of the Ronde.

Asgreen’s early-season preparation for Opening Weekend was interrupted by COVID-19, but the Dane already looked back on track when he rode to third place at Strade Bianche a week later.

He should be prominent again in Belgium, but he will hope for rather more robust support from […]

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