Geraint Thomas described his win at E3 Harelbeke as the best of his career on the road, after holding off Zdenek Stybar with an attack four kilometres from the finish.
The Team Sky rider, who finished third in this race in 2014, found himself in familiar company after launching attack on the Oude Kwaremont for the second year in a row. Like last year, Thomas was joined by Peter Sagan and an Etixx-Quick-Step rider, this time in the shape of Stybar.
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While 12 months ago Sagan had the legs and, importantly, the pace to overhaul Thomas in the final straight, the Welshman didn’t let it come down to a sprint this time. Sagan couldn’t hold on as the Sky rider powered away towards the end, and neither could Stybar as Thomas rode solo to the finish line.
“I think this is the biggest win for me,” said Thomas when asked how this race ranked on his palmares. “I won a stage at the Tour Down Under but you look at the past winners here there are some super strong guys and this is a big race.
“Confidence-wise this win is great. To ride like we did today as a team shows that we’re always moving forwards. We’ve learned a lot from the last few years of racing the classics.
“With [Ian] Stannard winning [Omloop Het Nieuwsblad] again this year and [Elia] Viviani was third in Kuurne – these are super results.
“Hopefully we can continue this momentum and go into the Classics, not feel any pressure and get stuck in like we have done in these last few races.”
With Sir Bradley Wiggins set to return to the Team Sky lineup for Sunday’s Ghent-Wevelgem, Thomas believes the squad just goes from strength to strength.
Wiggins will race for the last time in Sky colours at Paris-Roubaix and Thomas says the world time trial champion gives the team another option over the famous cobbles, with Luke Rowe (13th) and Stannard (26th) also proving their credentials at E3.
“When Brad comes into the team it can only strengthen it,” Thomas said. “He’s been focussed on these races since the end of last year so he’ll be in great shape. These races are a lot more than being physically strong, though.
“As long as we can stay out of trouble we should be able to go into the last 50km with a few relatively fresh guys and that gives us a few cards to play.”