History has proven that if you’d like a shot at winning the Tour of Flanders, you’re going to have to show your cards at the E3 Saxo Bank Classic. The results speak for themselves, especially if you look at the recent list of winners for Flanders. Take our very own Alberto Bettiol, the race victor in 2019. Guess where he placed at the E3 Saxo Bank Classic that very same year?
So even though this race might be overlooked and seen as the precursor to Flanders, don’t sleep on the results. Plus, it’s the favorite cobbled race of one of our newest riders on the team — who is no stranger to the Classics.
“I checked the map and visualized the course in my head by the names of the streets and hills on it. I’m so honored to be back at my favorite cobbled race,” said Fumiyuki Beppu.
Our team photographer, Jered Gruber, shares Beppu’s opinion on this particular race being his most treasured.
“I love how much fun it is to chase the race and how knotted up and twisty the race route is. It’s pretty close to ridiculous how many climbs the organizers manage to cram into the crucial 90k part of the race,” said Gruber.
This year’s route offers no exception to what Jered jokingly called the “Hill Climbing Championships of Flanders.” Tomorrow the riders will face 17 climbs throughout the 203 kilometer trek from Harelbeke and then back to Harelbeke for the finish. Fortunately for us, our team is a mix of experienced veterans of the Classics mixed with younger riders who have already found success this year, like Stefan Bissegger.
“I‘m excited and I really want to perform well,” said Bissegger. The Swiss pro will be riding at both E3 Saxo Bank Classic on Friday and Gent–Wevelgem on Sunday. The 23-year-old has plenty of momentum going into the weekend after achieving a major stage win at the Paris-Nice time trial earlier this month. And while it’s his first full year with the team, he was able to race Flanders in one of his first races with EF Education-NIPPO last year at Flanders. “For that race, I learned that you can’t switch off the brain, even for one second. You always have to be ready for anything,” said Bissegger.
Team newcomers like Bissegger and Beppu will join seasoned Classics rider, Julius van den Berg, who’s been with the team since 2018. Still, this cobbled Classic is a brand-new race for him.
“I’ve never done E3 before, but I’m feeling well and just got some good training in Holland. We’ve got Alberto as our leader and other guys like Jonas Rutsch and our warrior Sebastian Langeveld. I hope for some fighting spirit for the team,” said van den Berg.
No one can capture that spirit better than team photographers Jered Gruber and Ashley Gruber. These races are where their passion for cycling was taken to a whole new level. “Our first ever shoot was in Flanders. We shot the Cobbled Classics first and spent more time here in Oudenaarde than pretty much anywhere when we got started.” The photography duo even rode their own bikes in that area so much that it started to feel like home. “We just rode and rode and explored everything in the area. These roads are our roads. They’re our backyard. I love the feeling of working in my backyard,” said Gruber.
Whether you are new to cycling or have been following it for decades, you surely know that Belgium races have a special history and feeling to them that can’t be replicated. “The clash of passion, history, and enthusiasm is something to be fully enjoyed,” said Beppu.
We couldn’t agree more and look forward to seeing it on full display tomorrow and Sunday.
E3 Saxo Bank Classic Roster:
Julius van den Berg