E3 Harelbeke

E3 Harelbeke
Race details
Date Late March
Region Flanders, Belgium
Local name(s) E3 Harelbeke (Dutch)
Nickname(s) The little Tour of Flanders
Discipline Road
Competition UCI World Tour
Type One-day race
Organiser Hand in Hand VZW
Race director Philippe Vermeeren
First edition 1958 (1958)
Editions 59 (as of 2016)
First winner  Armand Desmet (BEL)
Most wins  Tom Boonen (BEL) (5 wins)
Most recent  Michał Kwiatkowski (POL)

E3 Harelbeke, previously known as Harelbeke–Antwerp–Harelbeke and E3-Prijs Vlaanderen, is an annual road cycling race in Flanders, Belgium. The race starts and finishes in Harelbeke, covering 203 kilometres,[1] mainly in the Flemish Ardennes.

First raced in 1958, it is one of the more recently founded one-day classics, but has developed into a highly prestigious and desirable event.[2] It is on the UCI World Tour calendar, as the competition's first cobbled classic of the season.

Belgian Tom Boonen holds the record of victories with five wins, trailed by cycling icon Rik Van Looy who won four times.

Cobbled Classic

Main article: Cobbled classics

E3 Harelbeke is held on the last Friday of March and marks the start of the Flemish Cycling Week, opening up a fortnight of WorldTour racing on the cobbles and bergs of Flanders.[2] It is the second in the series of cobbled races in Belgium and northern France that take place over a two-week period from the Wednesday after Milan–San Remo until Paris–Roubaix. E3 Harelbeke is the race that resembles the Tour of Flanders the most.[3]

In 2010, UCI made some calendar changes, most notably positioning the Pro Tour race Gent–Wevelgem on the day after E3 Harelbeke, causing a dispute between the two races.[4] In 2012, when the E3 race was upgraded to World Tour status as well, organizers changed the date of their event to Friday to meet the demands of UCI, who requested a day of rest between two arduous World Tour events.[5]

Because of its place on the calendar, the race has built a reputation as the final rehearsal for the more prestigious Tour of Flanders, the Flemish monument race coming nine days after the E3 Harelbeke.[6] With a distance of 200–215 km, the E3 route is shorter than the Tour of Flanders, but addresses many of the same roads and hills of the Flemish Ardennes.[7] With cobbles, steep climbs, winding and narrow roads, and often affected by wind, it offers all race circumstances that characterize Flemish classic races.[3] Favourites for the Tour of Flanders often do well in Harelbeke, eager to win the race and using it as the perfect testing ground. Because of the similarities, Flemish media have dubbed the race The little Tour of Flanders.[8][9][10]


The E3 Harelbeke was created in 1958. The first editions were raced from Harelbeke to Antwerp and back, hence the event was named Harelbeke-Antwerp-Harelbeke. Belgian cycling icon Rik Van Looy won the race four times in the 1960s. E3 does not refer to a race sponsor; the race was renamed E3-Prijs Harelbeke in the early 1960s, as a reference to the former European route E03, a series of European highways from Lisbon to Stockholm.[11] The Belgian part of the E3 - now called E17 - connected Antwerp and Kortrijk, close to Harelbeke.

Tom Boonen won a record five times

Although the race is much younger than many other cycling classics in Flanders, it quickly became a desirable entry for specialists of the cobbled races. Many winners on the roll of honour have also won the Tour of Flanders or Paris–Roubaix in their careers. Classics specialist Jan Raas won the race three consecutive times in the early 1980s. In the 1990s Johan Museeuw and Andrei Tchmil won their first important one-day races in Harelbeke, before winning cycling's most prestigious cobbled classics.[3][12]

Since the first edition until 2011, the race was held on a Saturday in the weekend before the Tour of Flanders, forming a tandem with the Brabantse Pijl on Sunday. From 2005 until 2011 the race was part of the continental UCI Europe Tour, where it was classified as a 1.HC race. Belgian Tom Boonen, claiming four consecutive wins, and Swiss Fabian Cancellara were the main protagonists with some spectacular victories, and the event garnered a lot of prestige on the international calendar.[13][14][15][16]

In 2012 the race was upgraded to World Tour level, cycling's highest level of professional races. Tom Boonen won the edition, setting a record of five victories, and the race was officially named E3 Harelbeke.[11] In 2013 Fabian Cancellara claimed his third win after a long-distance attack on the Oude Kwaremont and a 35 km solo raid to the finish.[17] The most recent winners of E3 Harelbeke are Slovak Peter Sagan and Britain's Geraint Thomas, thereby cementing its reputation as a foremost cobbled classic.[18][19]


Usually a little over 200 kilometres long and always starting and finishing in Harelbeke, the E3 Harelbeke contains anything between 12 and 17 short, sharp, cobbled climbs, mainly in the last 90 kilometres. As usual in Flemish one-day racing, local knowledge can be crucial.[2]

Route of the 2012 edition

The race starts from Harelbeke's Grote Markt and travels east, the first 110 km flat with cobbles around Oudenaarde and Zottegem. The riders reach the most easterly point at Ninove after 85 km and after swinging west and going through Geraardsbergen and Brakel, the tough part begins with a succession of short, sharp climbs some of which are cobbled as the race loops between Ronse and Oudenaarde.

The first categorized ascent in E3 Harelbeke is traditionally the Leberg, which comes shortly after a quick spin through the town of Oudenaarde, where Belgium’s top cobbled Classic, the Ronde van Vlaanderen/Tour des Flandres finishes nine days later. After that, round about the halfway point, E3’s main series of climbs begins. The Paterberg and Oude Kwaremont are notoriously difficult bergs where the race tends to split apart for good, whilst the Tiegemberg, the last climb of the day, comes at 16 kilometres from the finish.

Profile of the 2012 edition


The 12 hills in order of appearance are La Houppe, Berg ten Stene, Boigneberg, Eikenberg, Stationsberg, Taaienberg, Kruisberg, Kapelleberg, Paterberg, Oude Kwaremont, Knokteberg and Tiegemberg. The Paterberg is a cobbled 300m climb that averages 12.5%, while the Oude Kwaremont is 2200m, of which 1500m cobbled, with a gradient average of 4.2%.


Rider Team
1958 Belgium Desmet, ArmandArmand Desmet (BEL) Groene Leeuw-Leopold
1959 Belgium Kerckhove, NorbertNorbert Kerckhove (BEL) Faema-Guerra
1960 Belgium Doom, DanielDaniel Doom (BEL) Wiel's–Flandria
1961 Belgium Cabooter, Arthur DeArthur De Cabooter (BEL) Groene Leeuw-SAS-Sinalco
1962 Belgium Messelis, AndreAndré Messelis (BEL) Wiel's-Groene Leeuw
1963 Belgium Fore, NoelNoël Foré (BEL) Faema-Flandria
1964 Belgium Looy, Rik VanRik Van Looy (BEL) Solo-Superia
1965 Belgium Looy, Rik VanRik Van Looy (BEL) Solo-Superia
1966 Belgium Looy, Rik VanRik Van Looy (BEL) Solo-Superia
1967 Belgium Bocklant, WillyWilly Bocklant (BEL) Flandria–De Clerck
1968 Belgium Boever, Jaak DeJaak De Boever (BEL) Smiths
1969 Belgium Looy, Rik VanRik Van Looy (BEL) Willem II-Gazelle
1970 Belgium Ryckeghem, Daniel VanDaniel Van Ryckeghem (BEL) Mann-Grundig
1971 Belgium Vlaeminck, Roger DeRoger De Vlaeminck (BEL) Flandria–Mars
1972 Belgium Hutsebaut, HubertHubert Hutsebaut (BEL) Goldor-IJsboerke
1973 Belgium Int Ven, WillyWilly In 't Ven (BEL) Molteni
1974 Belgium Springel, Herman VanHerman Van Springel (BEL) MIC-Ludo-De Gribaldy
1975 Belgium Frans Verbeeck (BEL) Maes-Watney
1976 Belgium Planckaert, WalterWalter Planckaert (BEL) Maes-Rokado
1977 Germany Thurau, DietrichDietrich Thurau (GER) TI-Raleigh
1978 Belgium Maertens, FreddyFreddy Maertens (BEL) Flandria–Velda–Lano
1979 Netherlands Raas, JanJan Raas (NED) TI-Raleigh
1980 Netherlands Raas, JanJan Raas (NED) TI-Raleigh
1981 Netherlands Raas, JanJan Raas (NED) TI-Raleigh
1982 Belgium Bogaert, JanJan Bogaert (BEL) Europ Decor
1983 Belgium Tackaert, WilliamWilliam Tackaert (BEL) Splendor-Euroshop
1984 Netherlands Oosterbosch, BertBert Oosterbosch (NED) Panasonic–Raleigh
1985 Australia Anderson, PhilPhil Anderson (AUS) Panasonic–Raleigh
1986 Belgium Vanderaerden, EricEric Vanderaerden (BEL) Panasonic–Merckx–Agu
1987 Belgium Planckaert, EddyEddy Planckaert (BEL) Panasonic–Isostar
1988 Italy Bontempi, GuidoGuido Bontempi (ITA) Carrera Jeans–Vagabond
1989 Belgium Planckaert, EddyEddy Planckaert (BEL) ADR-Coors Light
1990 Denmark Lilholt, SorenSoren Lilholt (DNK) Histor-Sigma
1991 Germany Ludwig, OlafOlaf Ludwig (GER) Panasonic–Sportlife
1992 Belgium Museeuw, JohanJohan Museeuw (BEL) Lotto–Mavic–MBK
1993 Italy Cipollini, MarioMario Cipollini (ITA) GB-MG Maglificio
1994 Moldova Tchmil, AndreiAndrei Tchmil (MDA) Lotto
1995 Belgium Leysen, BartBart Leysen (BEL) Mapei–GB–Latexco
1996 Belgium Bomans, CarloCarlo Bomans (BEL) Mapei–GB
1997 Belgium Dijck, Hendrik VanHendrik Van Dijck (BEL) TVM-Farm Frites
1998 Belgium Museeuw, JohanJohan Museeuw (BEL) Mapei–Bricobi
1999 Belgium Petegem, Peter VanPeter Van Petegem (BEL) TVM-Farm Frites
2000 Russia Ivanov, SergeiSergei Ivanov (RUS) Farm Frites
2001 Belgium Tchmil, AndreiAndrei Tchmil (BEL) Lotto–Adecco
2002 Italy Pieri, DarioDario Pieri (ITA) Alessio
2003 Netherlands Jongh, Steven deSteven de Jongh (NED) Rabobank
2004 Belgium Boonen, TomTom Boonen (BEL) Quick-Step–Davitamon
2005 Belgium Boonen, TomTom Boonen (BEL) Quick-Step–Innergetic
2006 Belgium Boonen, TomTom Boonen (BEL) Quick-Step–Innergetic
2007 Belgium Boonen, TomTom Boonen (BEL) Quick-Step–Innergetic
2008 Norway Arvesen, Kurt AsleKurt Asle Arvesen (NOR) Team CSC
2009 Italy Pozzato, FilippoFilippo Pozzato (ITA) Team Katusha
2010 Switzerland Cancellara, FabianFabian Cancellara (SUI) Team Saxo Bank
2011 Switzerland Cancellara, FabianFabian Cancellara (SUI) Leopard Trek
2012 Belgium Boonen, TomTom Boonen (BEL) Omega Pharma–Quick-Step
2013 Switzerland Cancellara, FabianFabian Cancellara (SUI) RadioShack–Leopard
2014 Slovakia Sagan, PeterPeter Sagan (SVK) Cannondale
2015 United Kingdom Thomas, GeraintGeraint Thomas (GBR) Team Sky
2016 Poland Kwiatkowski, MichalMichal Kwiatkowski (POL) Team Sky

Multiple winners

Riders in italics are still active.

Wins Rider Editions
5  Tom Boonen (BEL) 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2012
4  Rik Van Looy (BEL) 1964, 1965, 1966, 1969
3  Jan Raas (NED) 1979, 1980, 1981
 Fabian Cancellara (SUI) 2010, 2011, 2013
2  Eddy Planckaert (BEL) 1987, 1989
 Johan Museeuw (BEL) 1992, 1998
 Andrei Tchmil (BEL) 1994, 2001

Wins per country

Wins Country
37  Belgium
5  Netherlands
4  Italy
3   Switzerland
2  Germany
1  Australia,  Denmark,  Moldova,  Norway,  Poland,  Russia,  Slovakia,  United Kingdom



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  14. Recap of the 2007 race (Flemish television)
  15. Decaluwé, Brecht. "Cancellara claims E3 Prijs Vlaanderen - Harelbeke. Time trial champion drops Boonen and Flecha in final kilometre". Cycling News. Retrieved 30 November 2015.
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