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E3 Saxo Bank Classic

E3 Saxo Bank Classic
Race details
DateLate March
RegionFlanders, Belgium
Local name(s)E3 Harelbeke (in Dutch)
Nickname(s)The little Tour of Flanders
CompetitionUCI World Tour
TypeOne-day race
OrganiserHand in Hand VZW
Race directorPhilippe Vermeeren
Web Edit this at Wikidata
First edition1958 (1958)
Editions66 (as of 2024)
First winner Armand Desmet (BEL)
Most wins Tom Boonen (BEL) (5 wins)
Most recent Mathieu van der Poel (NED)

E3 Saxo Bank Classic, previously known as E3 BinckBank Classic, E3 Harelbeke, 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 prestigious and desirable event.[2] It is on the UCI World Tour calendar, as part of a series of cobbled classics in Belgium and Northern France in March and April.

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

Cobbled Classic

E3 Harelbeke is held on the last Friday of March and marks the start of the Flemish Cycling Week, starting 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]

Stijn Devolder and Guillaume Van Keirsbulck climbing the Muur van Geraardsbergen in the 2012 race.

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 race has a reputation as a foremost cobbled classic.[18][19] The race was rebranded E3 BinckBank Classic for the 2019 edition, following a sponsorship deal. The name change does not have consequences for the route, as the city of Harelbeke continues to host the start and finish of the race.[20]

Trophy won by Tom Boonen at 2012 E3 Harelbeke (collection KOERS. Museum of Cycle Racing)

It was raced without interruption from its inception until the COVID-19 pandemic caused the cancellation of the 2020 edition.


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 2018 edition

The race starts on Harelbeke's Grote Markt and travels east on mainly flat roads towards Oudenaarde and Zottegem. The riders reach the most easterly point in Ninove after 85 km, before returning west via Geraardsbergen, after which the race addresses the bergs and cobbled roads of the Flemish Ardennes in the south of East Flanders. The race unfolds in the hill zone with a succession of short, sharp climbs as the course loops between Ronse and Oudenaarde.[21]

The last climbs in the Flemish Ardennes – Paterberg, Oude Kwaremont and Karnemelkbeekstraat – are notoriously difficult and the sites where the race tends to split apart for good; before the race re-enters West Flanders for a mainly flat run-in to the finish. The Tiegemberg, the last climb of the day, comes at 20 kilometres from the finish in Harelbeke.[21]

Profile of the 2012 edition

Hills and cobbles

In 2017 there were 15 categorized hills.[22] The climbs, in order of appearance, are Katteberg, La Houppe, Kruisberg, Côte de Trieu, Hotond, Kortekeer, Taaienberg, Boigneberg, Eikenberg, Stationsberg, Kapelberg, Paterberg, Oude Kwaremont, Karnemelkbeekstraat 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%. In addition to the climbs, there are four flat stretches of cobbled roads.[21]


Year Country Rider Team
1958  Belgium Armand Desmet Groene Leeuw–Leopold
1959  Belgium Norbert Kerckhove Faema–Guerra
1960  Belgium Daniel Doom Wiel's–Flandria
1961  Belgium Arthur De Cabooter Groene Leeuw–SAS–Sinalco
1962  Belgium André Messelis Wiel's–Groene Leeuw
1963  Belgium Noël Foré Faema–Flandria
1964  Belgium Rik Van Looy Solo–Superia
1965  Belgium Rik Van Looy Solo–Superia
1966  Belgium Rik Van Looy Solo–Superia
1967  Belgium Willy Bocklant Flandria–De Clerck
1968  Belgium Jaak De Boever Smiths
1969  Belgium Rik Van Looy Willem II–Gazelle
"E3 Prijs Vlaanderen"
1970  Belgium Daniel Van Ryckeghem Mann–Grundig
1971  Belgium Roger De Vlaeminck Flandria–Mars
1972  Belgium Hubert Hutsebaut Goldor–IJsboerke
1973  Belgium Willy In 't Ven Molteni
1974  Belgium Herman Van Springel MIC–Ludo–De Gribaldy
1975  Belgium Frans Verbeeck Maes Pils–Watney
1976  Belgium Walter Planckaert Maes Pils–Rokado
1977  Germany Dietrich Thurau TI–Raleigh
1978  Belgium Freddy Maertens Flandria–Velda–Lano
1979  Netherlands Jan Raas TI–Raleigh
1980  Netherlands Jan Raas TI–Raleigh
1981  Netherlands Jan Raas TI–Raleigh
1982  Belgium Jan Bogaert Europ Decor
1983  Belgium William Tackaert Splendor–Euroshop
1984  Netherlands Bert Oosterbosch Panasonic–Raleigh
1985  Australia Phil Anderson Panasonic–Raleigh
1986  Belgium Eric Vanderaerden Panasonic–Merckx–Agu
1987  Belgium Eddy Planckaert Panasonic–Isostar
1988  Italy Guido Bontempi Carrera Jeans–Vagabond
1989  Belgium Eddy Planckaert ADR-Coors Light
1990  Denmark Søren Lilholt Histor–Sigma
1991  Germany Olaf Ludwig Panasonic–Sportlife
1992  Belgium Johan Museeuw Lotto–Mavic–MBK
1993  Italy Mario Cipollini GB–MG Maglificio
1994  Moldova Andrei Tchmil Lotto
1995  Belgium Bart Leysen Mapei–GB–Latexco
1996  Belgium Carlo Bomans Mapei–GB
1997  Belgium Hendrik Van Dijck TVM–Farm Frites
1998  Belgium Johan Museeuw Mapei–Bricobi
1999  Belgium Peter Van Petegem TVM–Farm Frites
2000  Russia Sergei Ivanov Farm Frites
2001  Belgium Andrei Tchmil Lotto–Adecco
2002  Italy Dario Pieri Alessio
2003  Netherlands Steven de Jongh Rabobank
2004  Belgium Tom Boonen Quick-Step–Davitamon
2005  Belgium Tom Boonen Quick-Step–Innergetic
2006  Belgium Tom Boonen Quick-Step–Innergetic
2007  Belgium Tom Boonen Quick-Step–Innergetic
2008  Norway Kurt Asle Arvesen Team CSC
2009  Italy Filippo Pozzato Team Katusha
2010   Switzerland Fabian Cancellara Team Saxo Bank
2011   Switzerland Fabian Cancellara Leopard Trek
"E3 Harelbeke"
2012  Belgium Tom Boonen Omega Pharma–Quick-Step
2013   Switzerland Fabian Cancellara RadioShack–Leopard
2014  Slovakia Peter Sagan Cannondale
2015  Great Britain Geraint Thomas Team Sky
2016  Poland Michał Kwiatkowski Team Sky
2017  Belgium Greg Van Avermaet BMC Racing Team
2018  Netherlands Niki Terpstra Quick-Step Floors
"E3 Binckbank Classic"
2019  Czech Republic Zdeněk Štybar Deceuninck–Quick-Step
2020 No race due to COVID-19 pandemic
"E3 Saxo Bank Classic"
2021  Denmark Kasper Asgreen Deceuninck–Quick-Step
2022  Belgium Wout van Aert Team Jumbo–Visma
2023  Belgium Wout van Aert Team Jumbo–Visma
2024  Netherlands Mathieu van der Poel Alpecin–Deceuninck

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
 Wout van Aert (BEL) 2022, 2023

Wins per country

Wins Country
40  Belgium
7  Netherlands
4  Italy
3  Switzerland
2  Denmark
1  Australia
 Czech Republic
 Great Britain

Statistics and trivia

Welsh rider Geraint Thomas won the 2015 event and became the first winner who also won the Tour de France, following his 2018 Tour de France win.


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  3. ^ a b c Axelgaard, Emil. "E3 Harelbeke preview". Cycling Quotes. Archived from the original on 8 December 2015. Retrieved 29 November 2015.
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  9. ^ Eppinga, Hendrik. "Ronde van Vlaanderen: Favorieten (in Dutch)". Retrieved 29 November 2015.
  10. ^ Kins, Steve. "'Kleine Ronde' telt even veel hellingen als de grote 28.03.2014". Archived from the original on 8 December 2015. Retrieved 29 November 2015.
  11. ^ a b "Historiek". E3 Harelbeke staff. Archived from the original on 8 December 2015. Retrieved 28 November 2015.
  12. ^ "Spring Classics: How to win cycling's hardest one-day races". BBC Sport. Archived from the original on 24 March 2015. Retrieved 27 March 2015.
  13. ^ Brown, Gregor. "Boonen follows in the footsteps of Van Looy. Four in-a-row for Belgian super-hero". Archived from the original on 21 October 2013. Retrieved 30 November 2015.
  14. ^ "Recap of the 2007 race (Flemish television)". Archived from the original on 2015-12-08. Retrieved 2015-11-30.
  15. ^ Decaluwé, Brecht. "Cancellara claims E3 Prijs Vlaanderen – Harelbeke. Time trial champion drops Boonen and Flecha in final kilometre". Archived from the original on 8 December 2015. Retrieved 30 November 2015.
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  17. ^ "E3 Harelbeke 2013: Fabian Cancellara lays down marker for the classics with majestic triumph in Flanders". Telegraph Sport. Archived from the original on 2015-03-31. Retrieved 29 November 2015.
  18. ^ Pedersen, Andy. "Defending champion Sagan returns to E3 Harelbeke". CyclingQuotes. Archived from the original on 8 December 2015. Retrieved 29 November 2015.
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  20. ^ "E3 Harelbeke gets new name and route – News shorts". Archived from the original on 2018-11-21. Retrieved 2018-11-20.
  21. ^ a b c "60e Record Bank E3 Harelbeke – CAT 1.UWT: Parcours" (PDF). E3 Harelbeke. Kon. Wielerclub Hand in Hand VZW. Archived (PDF) from the original on 24 March 2017. Retrieved 23 March 2017.
  22. ^ "60e Record Bank E3 Harelbeke – CAT 1.UWT: Technische Gids / Le Guide Technique / Technical Guide" (PDF). E3 Harelbeke. Kon. Wielerclub Hand in Hand VZW. Archived (PDF) from the original on 24 March 2017. Retrieved 23 March 2017.
  23. ^ "2003 E3 Prijs Harelbeke (HC), Belgium". BikeRaceInfo. Archived from the original on 1 December 2017. Retrieved 1 December 2017.
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  28. ^ Rogers, Neal. "The weekly spin: A conversation with E3 organizers about that poster". Retrieved 9 March 2019.
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E3 Saxo Bank Classic
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