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2002 E3 Prijs

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Bayern Rundfahrt
Photo ©: Schaaf

46th E3 Prijs Vlaanderen - 1.1

Belgium, March 29, 2003

Main page     Course Map & Timetable    Start List    Results

Complete Live Report

Start time: 11:45 CET
Estimated finish time: 16:50 CET

Crowds at the start
Photo: © CN
Click for larger image

Welcome to Cyclingnews' coverage of the 46th E3 Prijs Vlaanderen, one of the biggest Belgian classics. Today's race starts and finishes in the West Flemish town of Harelbeke, and takes the riders over a 209 kilometre parcours through the Flemish Ardennes. The race features 12 climbs, many of which are cobbled. The first climb of La Houppe starts after 115 km, and that will be followed by Berg Stene, Boigneberg, Eikenberg, Stationsberg, Taaienberg, Berg Ten Houte, Kapelberg, Paterberg, Kwaremont, Kluisberg, Tiegemberg. The final climb comes at 16 km to go.

The atmosphere at the start was relatively relaxed, with most of the riders (even the injured ones) looking forward to testing themselves over the cobbles, with a view to next week's Ronde van Vlaanderen. Even Johan Museeuw (Quick.Step-Davitamon), with his heavily bandaged knee looked in good spirits as he chatted with his Quick.Step teammates at the start. It's a very similar team to the one that dominated Het Volk, with Museeuw, Bettini, Boonen, Vandenbroucke Bramati, Kashechkin, Cretskens back for more, accompanied by 2001 Paris-Roubaix winner Servais Knaven.

Johan Museeuw
Photo: © CN
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But Quick.Step suffered a loss last Wednesday in Dwars Door Vlaanderen, a race similar in style to the E3 Prijs. After Johan Museeuw crashed out, Quick.Step seemed to lose its momentum, and in the end only Frank Vandenbroucke made the final breakaway, which had four Lotto-Domo riders in it including eventual winner Robbie McEwen.

It's going to be more than a Battle of the Belgians however, with last year's winner Dario Pieri supported by a very strong Saeco outfit. Michele Bartoli (Fassa Bortolo) was at the start, but it's probably too early for him to be at top form. Look out for Oscar Freire and Michael Boogerd (Rabobank), as well as Jaan Kirsipuu (Ag2r) and Magnus Backstedt (fakta), who was smiling and relaxed at the start.

14:45 CET - 134 km/75 km to go
The riders have been on the road for three hours now, enjoying excellent weather conditions as they head towards Flobecq and the first climb of La Houppe. The first two hours were raced at 45 km/h.

We have two leaders: Stuart O'Grady (Credit Agricole) and Matthe Pronk (BankGiroLoterij) with a 50 second lead on Julian Dean (CSC) and 2'10 on the peloton with 75 kilometres to go in the race. Dean was with the leading two before, but was dropped. They have climbed three hills - La Houppe, Berg Stene and Boigneberg - and the latter was where Dean was dropped. They are now on the Eikenberg (climb 4), with Pronk leading the Australian champion on this tough cobbled climb.

14:50 CET - 136 km/73 km to go
Lotto-Domo has two riders on the front of the peloton forcing the pace on the Eikenberg, trying to shake up the peloton a little. There is a little big of light rain, which if it gets any heavier will change the face of the race. For now, the roads are fairly dry.

Lotto-Domo's chase has brought O'Grady and Pronk back to 1'40 at the top, with Julian Dean just about to be recapture. Michael Boogerd (Rabobank) is just in front of the peloton, but he is not attacking. He's just using this for training for next weekend.

14:56 CET - 140 km/69 km to go
Dean is caught with 69 km to go by the peloton, which now has several Rabobank riders at the front, including Freire and Sven Nijs. Johan Museeuw (Quick.Step) is in the second or third rank.

O'Grady and Pronk are riding up the Steenbeekdries now, with 1'39 on the peloton. Behind them, it's Quick Step and Rabobank controlling the tempo in front of the peloton. Nico Mattan (Cofidis) attacks, making good use of the motorbikes.

15:03 CET - 144 km/65 km to go

Photo: © CN
Click for larger image

The two leaders, O'Grady and Pronk, are climbing the very steep cobbled Taaienberg, with a maximum grade of 18%. Their lead has shrunk to 1'18 over the Quick.Step led peloton. Servais Knaven is doing a lot of work at the front before the climb, then Museeuw , Vandenbroucke and Boonen go really hard and cause damage in the peloton. Van Heeswijk is also up there. It's deja vu all over again...

Steels is dropped, as are many others. Wesemann, Kessler, Freire, Boogerd and Van Heeswijk have tacked onto the back of Museeuw, Boonen and Vandenbroucke.

15:07 CET - 147 km/62 km to go
The eight man chasing group is caught by Van Petegem, Pieri and a couple of others, including Bernhard Eisel. They realised the danger, and closed it down quickly. Once Museeuw and co. see that, they sit up and the peloton catches on. Eisel and Kessler continue on their own in front, now just 30 seconds behind O'Grady and Pronk.

The peloton is down to about 50 riders now.

15:07 CET - 150 km/59 km to go
Pronk and O'Grady have been caught by Baldato and Gaumont, with another group chasing behind. That includes Fornaciari, Bettini, Bettini, Eisel, Freire, Wauters, Kessler, Kirchen, Gobbi, There are 12 leaders now.

Lotto-Domo has again got to the front of the peloton, chasing this dangerous 12 man break.

15:18 CET - 154 km/55 km to go
The peloton flies through Zulzeke, with the yellow jerseys of the Sidermec team prominent at the front with the Quick.Step blue and white. The 12 man break is caught. Davide Bramati gets to the front for Quick.Step at the foot of the Kapelberg, another plan afoot?

15:22 CET - 157 km/52 km to go
It's a race now to the foot of the Paterberg, one of the toughest climbs in the race. There are five Quick.Steps on the front of the peloton, as they take a sharp right hand turn en route to the Paterberg. Museeuw is in third wheel.

15:24 CET - 159 km/50 km to go
Max van Heeswijk (USPS) gets the best position on the Paterberg, and rides away from the FDJ rider behind him in second wheel. Museeuw follows, in the left hand gutter which is not closed off as it is in the Ronde. Van Heeswijk cruises over the top, with about 15 men behind him.

Behind, the peloton is struggling up the climb, some having to stop due to the steepness.

15:28 CET - 163 km/46 km to go
There is a leading group of around 15 riders, with Tom Boonen (Quick.Step) powering along at the front at the foot of the Oude Kwaremont. Frank Vandenbroucke, Dario Pieri, Johan Museeuw, Matthias Kessler, Andreas Klier and Steffen Wesemann, Romans Vainsteins, Peter Van Petegem, Michael Boogerd are all there, but the rest of Rabobank missed it and are chasing hard.

Wesemann and Boogerd are making the pace on the Kwaremont, with VDB in third wheel. Pieri overtakes the Telekom rider, and gets to the top of the climb first.

15:35 CET - 166 km/43 km to go

Oscar Freire
Photo: © CN
Click for larger image

Boogerd, Wesemann, Pieri, and Vandenbroucke have about 10 seconds at the top of the climb, but they wait for the rest of the breakaway to catch up. Boogerd wants to keep it going though, and drives hard. Van Petegem jumps across from the following group, followed by the rest of them.

The leading group: Frank Vandenbroucke, Johan Museeuw, Tom Boonen (Quick Step), Dario Pieri (Saeco), Matthias Kessler, Andreas Klier, Steffen Wesemann (Telekom), Fabio Baldato (Alessio), Romans Vainsteins (Sidermec), Peter Van Petegem (Lotto), Michael Boogerd (Rabobank), Tristan Hoffman (CSC), Max Van Heeswijk (USPS). They are being chased by a group with Zanini, Freire, Bartoli, Mattan, Guesdon, Kacheskhin, and then the peloton. But the gap is at least 30 seconds.

Museeuw's knee appears to be working rather well!

15:41 CET - 171 km/38 km to go
The six man chasing group has caught the leaders, meaning that there are now four Quick.Steps in the front group. But will the cooperation be great enough to stay away from the peloton?

Baldato and Klier have attacked the front group, just before the Kluisberg.

15:45 CET - 174 km/35 km to go
Baldato and Klier are caught, and Stefano Zanini and Matthias Kessler counter attack. But nothing comes of it, as Kacheskhin chases them down. Museeuw is still looking comfy in this front group, but there are still a lot of rivals.

Tom Boonen accelerates, causing panic. Zanini chases him. However, the peloton has caught up to the leaders now, and the race is essentially back together before Kluisberg. That is, until Mattan attacks at the bottom of the climb. He gets a lot of help from the motorbike again, and then his teammate Jo Planckaert bridges up.

Over the top of the climb, there is a group of eight with Wesemann, VDB, Kirsipuu, Bartoli, O'Grady, Ivanov, Gobbi and Vansevenant. They are joined by the rest of the peloton at the base of the descent. An Alessio rider - Enrico Cassani - counters as they cross the Schelde, with Kirsipuu, O'Grady and Gontchar going with him. Serguei Ivanov (Fassa) closes the gap, and then the peloton.

15:56 CET - 182 km/27 km to go
The pace is very high through Waarmaarde, and there are several splits in the bunch. Steffen Wesemann (Telekom) accelerates, with Stijn Devolder (Vlaanderen) and Steven De Jongh (Rabobank) bridging up. There is no immediate reaction from the peloton, but it won't take long.

Saeco is leading the chase, with a lot of Telekom jerseys bunched behind them. Then Rabobank, hoping to close down the chase with their fast man up the road. They have 22 seconds lead.

15:59 CET - 184 km/25 km to go
Wesemann, Devolder and De Jongh are speeding along towards the cobbles of Kaster, chased by a Saeco led peloton. This is a tricky section of cobbles, with several corners.

In the peloton, Zanini powers along the cobbles at Kaster, followed by two Rabobanks and Johan Museeuw. Museeuw accelerates, with Pieri only able to hold his wheel. There is an instant gap, but it's not huge. Bernhard Eisel (FDJ) closes the gap, bit by bit.

There are now nine chasers, with VDB, Boogerd, Ivanov, Eisel, Freire, Museeuw, Gobbi, Van Petegem and Pieri. The peloton is about 20 seconds behind them, and the chasers are 18 seconds behind the three leaders.

16:05 CET - 189 km/20 km to go
The leading three, Stijn Devolder, Steffen Wesemann and Steven De Jongh, are being chased by an elite group of riders with Museeuw, VDB, Pieri, Freire and Van Petegem at 19 seconds. There is not a lot of cooperation, and the Rabobank riders in the chase try to slow it down.

16:09 CET - 191 km/18 km to go
The leaders pass a giant toadstool en route to the Tiegemberg. They are riding very well, and have a 27 second gap on the chasers, which have been caught by the peloton again. Cassani, Boogerd, Kirsipuu and Belohvosciks attack on the climb in pursuit, but they can not escape the peloton.

16:16 CET - 195 km/14 km to go
The leaders, Devolder, Wesemann and De Jongh, have 43 seconds now on the 40 rider peloton, which is being led by Sidermec. Rabobank is near the front, controlling the pace. Van Petegem has moved to the front of the peloton, helping the two Sidermec riders. But no-one else seems to be interested.

16:19 CET - 198 km/11 km to go
Just over 10 km to go to the finish, with no more climbs, and we have three leaders: Steven De Jongh (Rabobank), Steffen Wesemann (Telekom), who has been strong all day, and Stijn Devolder (Vlaanderen). Their gap is slowly shrinking due to a concerted chase by a 35-40 man peloton. It's now 36 seconds.

16:21 CET - 200 km/ 9 km to go
It's 23 seconds now, as the chase gets going behind the three leaders. But there are a whole heap of Rabobank jerseys waiting to pounce, including Freire, Boogerd, Hayman, Nijs... It's Lotto and Sidermec with three men doing the chasing. Bortolami is burying himself for Sidermec, probably for Rodriguez or Vainsteins.

In front, De Jongh tries to increase the tempo, but the gap is still coming down.

16:24 CET - 202 km/7 km to go
Three against three, with Aart Vierhouten now on the front of the peloton, 15 seconds behind the three leaders. Wim Vansevenant and Gianluca Bortolami are the other two workers. But they need help, as Wesemann does a big turn in the break and the gap goes up to 17 seconds. The rest of the peloton needs to lend a hand, or it won't happen.

16:26 CET - 204 km/5 km to go
With 5 km to go, there's only Gianluca Bortolami chasing in the peloton, and he's losing time. He is followed by a host of Rabobank riders. It's 18 seconds. What are they waiting for?

Mattan attacks, with Lowik (BankGiroLoterij) on his wheel. The Rabobank boys close it down. Cassani counters, and gets a small gap. They will really have to work to get these three leaders.

16:28 CET - 206 km/3 km to go
Belohvosciks, Cassani, and Guesdon are in pursuit of Wesemann, De Jongh and Devolder with 3 km to go. The gap is 16 seconds. Wesemann is doing a lot of work in front, and is incredibly strong in this break.

16:30 CET - 207 km/2 km to go
Wesemann, Devolder and De Jongh hit 2 km to go with 13 seconds advantage on the three chasers (Guesdon, Belohvosciks, and Cassani). Belohvosciks does a massive turn to try and close the gap. It's now seven seconds, with just one short lap to go until the finish.

16:31 CET - 208 km/1 km to go
Wesemann, De Jongh and Devolder have five seconds with 1 km to go. Belohvosciks is doing his best to close the gap.

16:33 CET - 209 km/0 km to go
Wesemann leads, with De Jongh in second wheel. De Jongh leads out the sprint, Wesemann gets his wheel but can only get second. Devolder is third. Belohvosciks takes the fourth place, followed by Guesdon and Cassani. It looks as though Kirsipuu got 7th in the bunch sprint, 23 seconds behind.

An interesting race, with the peloton seemingly reluctant to bring back the leaders at the end, apart from two or three riders. We'll see what happens next weekend.

Thanks for following the E3 Prijs with Cyclingnews. Join us next Sunday for the big one, the Ronde van Vlaanderen!


1 Steven De Jongh (Ned) Rabobank
2 Steffen Wesemann (Ger) Telekom
3 Stijn Devolder (Bel) Vlaanderen-T Interim
4 Raivis Belohvosciks (Lat) Marlux
5 Frederic Guesdon (Fra) FDJeux.com
6 Enrico Cassani (Ita) Alessio
7 Jaan Kirsipuu (Est) Ag2r
8 Jans Koerts (Ned) BankGiroLoterij
9 Jo Planckaert (Bel) Cofidis
10 Max van Heeswijk (Ned) US Postal-Berry Floor

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