New cobbles, fewer hills and not as many miles - E3 Harelbeke will be different in 2016, but the organiser promises it won't be easier
Geraint Thomas took the biggest win of his career when he soloed to victory at E3 Harelbeke in March, and organisers are looking to tweak the course next year to shorten it and reduce the number of climbs.
Traditionally seen as the perfect warm-up for the Tour of Flanders, E3 Harelbeke has gained prominence as a great race of its own in recent years, with the 2015 edition no exception.
Organisers want to make the race more compact and plan to reduce the distance from 215km to 205km, with the first climb set to take place on a wider road than normal, reducing the chance of a crash similar to that of Fabian Cancellara on the Haaghoek last year.
“The idea is to let the stress build a little more,” Guy Dedeyne of the organising committee told Sporza. “The race will be more compact and we have also decided to ride up to the first hill on wider roads. This is to guarantee the safety of the riders.”
“The run will float and normally we should be able to start with a compact peloton on the first hill of the day.”
“There are also a few new cobblestones included in the course, so the competition will certainly not be easier. We can already say that a real bear will win this race.”
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Thomas and co had to traverse 17 climbs in 2015, but next year that will be fewer – possibly in order to keep more riders in contention for the win as the race reaches the closing stages.
The brutal course this year saw a select group of riders contest the final six kilometres, with pre-race favourite and reigning champion Peter Sagan cracking well before the end.