E3 Saxo Classic 2024

The test ahead of Ronde van Vlaanderen.

Route

If my eyes don’t deceive me, I’m fairly certain the only change is near 60 km from the finish. In 2023, the riders did Eikenberg. Tomorrow, they turn left instead. It leads them up Ellestraat. Overall, it doesn’t change much.

Key sectors

The finale starts with Taaienberg. MvdP and Wout van Aert attacked here in 2023.

It is then a game of cat and mouse from here. The peloton gets larger as groups from behind haven’t given up just yet. A lot of riders try to counter and get up the road ahead of Mariaborrestraat + Stationsberg. Here MvdP, Wout van Aert and Pogacar made their move in 2023, closing the gap up to Mohoric, SKA and Van Hooydonck.

The by far hardest climb in the race is Paterberg. Do remember, this is E3. They are allowed to ride in the gutter! Still, you can make a selection fairly easily if you got the legs. We are still 44 km from the finish here.

And the show is not over. The riders still have Oude Kwaremont to ride. It is such a special sector. We have 39 km left from the top.

Here you have the last 5 km.

Weather

Rainy. I note a tailwind from Knokteberg – Berg-Ter-Stene (97 km – 72 km left). This includes Taaienberg. It also means a tailwind on Paterberg and a crosswind on Oude Kwaremont.

How will the race unfold?

First off, the weather will play it’s role. It is not that windy but I will not rule out splits, they happen naturally in this part of the world. The rain will enhance the amount of crashes we will see, that is my best guess. It will also separate the technically gifted from the diesels.

Is this a Mathieu van der Poel vs Visma-Lab? You could make an argument for it. The more important thing you have to remember are the two rules, the bees fly by: They will decide, when the group up ahead is free to go. It means they are satisfied with it. If not, they will simply sacrifice a rider and do a team-attack on the next climb.

I think Wout van Aert has a good idea of how to deal with MvdP. He closed him down last season and he even had to monitor Pogacar too. He knows Paterberg will be his weak point. The steep, explosive cobbled sector is where Mathieu has an advantage. It will be a long solo for MvdP from there.

I think we will see a three horse race. Wout vs Matthieu vs the rest. Do the two favorites cancel each other out? It may happen but it is unlikely.

Contenders

Wout van Aert – last year’s winner. On the podium in both races in the opening weekend. Then he skipped Strade-Bianche and Milano-San Remo. Plus he didn’t compete in Paris-Nice or Tirreno-Adriatico. So what has he been up to? Likely training and spending time with his family. I don’t think that will affect him negatively at all. In 2023, he proved that poor weather conditions is something he thrives in, I’d

Matteo Jorgensen – he is the second in command by now. I’d imagine this is a race that suits him very well, hence the reason for his 4th place here in 2023. I think it is clear he is on another level than in 2023 but I wouldn’t go as far as putting him in the same category as Wout van Aert or Mathieu van der Poel. I will say he is the card Visma-Lab will have to play, in order to tire out Mathieu.

Mathieu van der Poel – probably the favorite looking at what he can do. SKA was vital last year for him. He was the one initiating the moves. The thing is, I doubt the race is tough enough for him to distance his biggest rival. Without a doubt, he will make the race hard – initiate the moves early. That way, it becomes a mano e mano, instead of MvdP vs the Bees.

Kasper Asgreen – I think he looks strong. The reason for him above Loulou is the rain, the Dane tends to do better in these conditions. He was on the backfoot in 2023, he likely will be too in 2024. He has to make the moves on Mariaborrestraat + Stationsberg or Oude Kwaremont, these sectors suits him the most.

Matej Mohoric – does he enjoy rain? I honestly don’t know. I’d imagine he does well in it and the reason being is simple: he is gifted when it becomes technical, and he knows how to read a race. He was 7th here in 2023, I’d imagine something similar tomorrow.

Alberto Bettiol – he is in great form just know. It has been a while since I’ve seen this level of consistency from him. We will have to see how long he can keep it up. I’d imagine a top-10 tomorrow.

Stefan Küng – he is very unlucky at the moment. I almost feel like he has a curse above him just now. He tends to thrive in the hardest cobbled classics despite the amount of climbing they have. A top-5.

Valentin Madouas – he has attended this race twice. Twice finishing in the top-10. His results this season have not been very good, I’d imagine he has trained for the upcoming races. He and Küng are a deadly duo. I’d imagine a top-10.

Mads Pedersen – cold and rainy. When I rewatched the 2023 edition, he was clearly not 100%. The same for Milano-San Remo in 2023. The illness he caught in his preparation had an effect on his performance. His result will depend on where Mathieu van der Poel decides to attack. On the Mariaborrestraat + Stationsberg? Then he can follow. On Paterberg? The chances are slimmer. He should be the best of the rest.

Tim Wellens – enjoys rain and is enjoying good form. A solid top-10 contender.

Who will win?

I will take a win for Wout van Aert. They are not dropping him tomorrow or outsprinting him.

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