Zdenek Stybar continued Deceuninck – Quick-Step’s incredible spring campaign, netting the team’s 20th victory of the season from a five-man group at the end of the E3 BinckBank Classic (1.UWT) in Harelbeke. The 33-year-old become the first Czech rider to triumph at the prestigious cobbled Classic
“I’m incredibly happy! Winning Harelbeke after Omloop is amazing, but I couldn’t have done it without this extraordinary team. We have such a great squad, all our riders can win a race and that’s one of the things that make the difference in our favour. Bob was instrumental in my victory, I couldn’t have done it without him, so I want to thank him for his enormous help”, said Stybar.
At 203.4 kilometres, this year’s race packed in 15 climbs, including Taaienberg, Paterberg and Oude Kwaremont, hills that will feature in one week also at the Ronde van Vlaanderen.
The day’s main breakaway formed after 30 kilometres and was made up of Stijn Steels (Roompot-Charles), Aksel Nommela (Wallonie Bruxelles), Marc Hirschi (Team Sunweb), Lionel Taminiaux (Wallonie Bruxelles), Ludwig De Winter (Wanty-Gobert Cycling Team), Mihkel Räim (Israel Cycling Academy), Jaime Castrillo (Movistar) and Thomas Sprengers (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise).
Deceuninck – Quick-Step riders controlled the gap and inched closer as they neared the climbs. With 60 kilometres to go, Bob Jungels took off on the Boigneberg and went solo in pursuit of a group of escapees, joining them before making an important selection on the gruelling Paterberg.
“I told Bob to just go if he felt good and you could see him put down the hammer, applying quite a bit of pressure on the peloton and allowing us to save some energy. Having him at the front was an ideal situation for me as I just had to cover the attacks on the important climbs”, Stybar explained about the move that ended up shaping the race.
With 30 kilometres remaining, on the Karnemelkbeekstraat, Jungels rode clear of his companions, maintaining a one-minute lead over a strong chasing group that had formed over the top of the Paterberg, which included also Stybar. Jungels stayed clear until seven kilometres to go, when he was reeled in by a four-man group containing also his teammate, Wout Van Aert (Team Jumbo-Visma), Greg Van Avermaet (CCC Team), and Alberto Bettiol (EF Education First).
Jungels didn’t stop there and attacked again, making the others work hard in order to reel him in again, before Zdenek probed the group inside the last four kilometres. The quintet remained as one under the flamme rouge, led by the Luxembourg Champion, before Stybar displayed his sprinting prowess, kicking out with 200 metres to go and coming past his opponents for a memorable victory. Van Aert finished second with Bettiol rounding out the podium.
“When Bob got caught, I asked him how he was feeling and told him that he should try again if he still had anything left in the tank, so he took off the front again and made the others chase. Then I accelerated and rode flat out, hoping to hurt the other riders, especially as I still had plenty of energy left in the legs for a sprint. It ended up perfectly for us and this makes up very happy. We’re riding on a wave, know what we have to do and we will keep enjoying the coming races”, concluded Stybar – the fifth rider in history to win Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and E3 Harelbeke in the same season.