Jumbo-Visma’s stellar season continued after Belgian champion Wout van Aert and the versatile Frenchman Christophe Laporte combined to devastating effect in the opening race of so-called Flanders Week. The duo established a lead of almost two minutes over a chasing group of eight before sitting up to take in the applause on the home straight of the E3 Saxo Bank Classic, where they locked arms in celebration.
Van Aert crossed the line just ahead of Laporte to secure his third win of the season and his first ever win in E3 – having finished runner-up in 2019 and being marked out in 2021. Switzerland’s Stefan Kung (Groupama-FDJ) won the sprint for the final place on the podium as the chasers came home 1:35 in arrears.
A huge acceleration from Van Aert on the Taaienberg with 80km remaining proved the pivotal moment of the 203.9km race, the Belgian champion joined by teammates Laporte and Tiesj Benoot as the first major shake-out occurred. Defending champion Kasper Asgreen (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) joined the trio along with Milan-San Remo winner Matej Mohoric (Bahrain Victorious), Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) and that man Kung.
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They soon caught and passed the day’s main break of seven riders, who had been up the road since going clear after 40km. Ineos Grenadiers led the chase with Dylan van Baarle and Jhonatan Narvaez soon infiltrating the leading group along with Anthony Turgis (TotalEnergies), Biniam Girmay (Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert), Michael Gogl (Alpecin-Fenix) and Quick-Step’s Florian Senechal, plus Rasmus Tiller (Uno-X) and Valentin Madouas (Groupama-FDJ).
A fourth Jumbo-Visma rider, the Dutchman Mike Teunissen, joined the party and did some hefty pace-setting before Van Aert threw down the hammer on the Paterberg with 43km remaining shortly after Senechal was hampered with a puncture.
Laporte, who has been a revelation at Jumbo-Visma since joining from Cofidis over the winter, was the only rider capable of sticking with Van Aert, and the duo’s gap was up to 25 seconds going onto the key cobbled section of the Oude Kwaremont.
Mohoric, Madouas and Kung led the chase but the elastic soon snapped for the established chase group of eight as the gap stretched to over a minute on the penultimate climb, the Karnemelkbeekstraat. Asgreen, Benoot, Girmay, Mohoric, Kung, Madouas, Narvaez and Van Baarle soon gave up the ghost on the final climb, the Tiegemberg, as it morphed into a battle for third place.

Belgian Wout Van Aert of Team Jumbo-Visma and French Christophe Laporte of Jumbo-Visma pictured in action during the 'E3 Saxo Bank Classic' cycling race, 203,9km from and to Harelbeke

Image credit: Getty Images

“The team was impressive and I have to thank every one of the guys who set up me and Christophe in the final,” Van Aert said after his victory. “We were supposed to be a bit more defensive until the Paterberg but from then on we were together in front. Also, a big thank you to Christophe for giving me this victory. It means so much to win this big classic in Flanders and I’m really proud of my team.”
Asked whether there was any doubt as to which of the two Jumbo-Visma riders would take the win, Van Aert admitted that there was “no discussion at all”.
“There are still many races to come and I think we will end up in more difficult situations with maybe more guys around us. Sooner or later Christophe or someone else will get his chance. This is how we race and this is the way everyone believes we can have the biggest chance of winning.”

'Bike racing is really hard' - Van Aert after 'impressive' E3 win

Taking place two days ahead of Gent-Wevelgem, the E3 Saxo Bank Classic is often seen as a key indicator to who will perform well at next Sunday’s Tour of Flanders – as indicated last year when Danish champion Asgreen won both races.
Asked what key lessons he had learned from E3 with the Ronde van Vlaanderen in mind, Van Aert said with a smile: “That bike racing is really hard. It’s one of the hardest races of the spring season and I learned that our team is really on top of it. We stuck to the plan and every one of us was really impressive.”
Kung won the battle for third after anticipating the final dash to the line, the Swiss powerhouse going clear of the chasers before the home straight to deny Eritrea’s Girmay the final place on the podium. Mohoric, winner of last weekend’s opening Monument of the season at San Remo, completed the top five.
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