Philippe Gilbert

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Greg Van Avermaet wins E3 Harelbeke after three-man sprint

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HARELBEKE, Belgium — Olympic road champion Greg Van Avermaet came out on top of a three-man sprint to win the E3 Harelbeke as Belgian riders secured a 1-2-3 finish in the one-day cobbled race on Friday.

Van Avermaet edged former world champion Philippe Gilbert. Oliver Naesen completed the podium.

Tom Boonen broke up the peloton when he attacked on the Taaienberg hill. A small group followed, and the Belgian trio pulled away on the steep cobbled slopes of the Oude Kwaremont, and stayed ahead all the way to the finish.

The Belgians sized each other carefully in the final kilometer. Naesen ignited the sprint 250 meters from the line. He made his move too soon, and Van Avermaet caught him with ease, then resisted Gilbert’s response to claim his first win in the E3.

It was Van Avermaet’s second important win this season following his success in the Het Nieuwsblad in February.

Gilbert, who was runner-up to Yves Lampaert in the Dwars doo Vlaanderen race midweek, looked strong in the finale but maybe chose too big a gear, failing to catch his rival.

“It gives me a lot of confidence for Flanders,” Van Avermaet said, referring to the Tour of Flanders, the region’s big race on April 2.

The race was marred by crashes, and Tony Gallopin of France was forced to withdraw with a suspected left wrist injury. His Lotto Soudal team said he would be taken to hospital for a medical checkup. World champion Peter Sagan was also caught up in a crash 42 kilometers from the finish but appeared uninjured.

Yves Lampaert wins Dwars door Vlaanderen ahead of teammate Philippe Gilbert

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WAREGEM, Belgium — Belgium’s Yves Lampaert won the Dwars door Vlaanderen race on Wednesday ahead of former world champion Philippe Gilbert as the Quick-Step Floors team secured a 1-2 finish in the cobbled road event.

The Belgian team rode a perfect tactical race, with Gilbert triggering the decisive breakaway before the 25-year-old Lampaert, a former judoka who took up cycling at the age of 17, came through for the biggest victory of his career.

Gilbert easily won the sprint for the runner-up spot, with Alexey Lutsenko completing the podium ahead of Luke Durbridge.

The race was marred by an accident involving American rider Kiel Reijnen, who was taken to the hospital after crashing just before the Eikenberg climb, about 60 kilometers from the finish. The Trek-Segafredo rider was squeezed off the side of the road, and went over his handlebars and into a ditch.

His team later tweeted that Reijnen “appears to be okay, with nothing serious” and that “They are doing X-rays to be sure.”

Gilbert, the Belgian champion, attacked with 77.5 kilometers to go, catching up with six breakaway riders as a group of 21 formed at the front. With pre-race favorites Sep Vanmarcke and Arnaud Demare having missed the break, their Cannondale and FDJ teams organized the chase as the front-runners quickly opened up a 35-second lead.

Vanmarcke accelerated in the Oude-Kwaremont, a cobbled climb with a maximum gradient of 11 per cent, but the classics specialist could not close the gap.

Gilbert attacked again in the Paterberg, an even steeper climb, reducing the leading group to an elite four-man group including Lampaert, Lutsenko and Durbridge.

The quartet stayed together until the final 10 kilometers, when Gilbert tested his rivals with several unsuccessful accelerations before Lampaert’s attack took him across the line first.