If the order of this weekend’s events were reversed – that is to say, if the racing came before the pre-race media posturing from everybody who’s not a bike racer looking to gain a bit of exposure for whatever they’ve got to say – then it would come as a pretty serious surprise that the organizers of the E3 are claiming that Ghent-Wevelgem’s move from the Wednesday before the Ronde to the same weekend as E3 threatens to kill it. From where we were sitting, E3 blew Ghent-Wevelgem out of the water. If this weekend’s racing was E3′s death knell, it was spectacular.
In a sense, the concern for E3 is understandable. Ghent-Wevelgem is a World Tour race, and teams and headline riders may be looking to limit their fatigue in the weekend before Belgium’s Chrismas, The Superbowl, and World Series All Rolled Together Into One Unholy Party – that is to say, the Ronde van Vlaanderen, of course. Faced with a weekend of two major races, they will naturally choose the race that will garner them points toward season-long standings: Ghent-Wevelgem.
However, as this weekend’s racing quite clearly demonstrated, the E3 has the potential to be a far superior race. Its bergs are more numerous, closely packed, and are clustered closer to the finish line, thus approximating the Ronde. In comparison, Ghent-Wevelgem’s parcours usually features a more humane arrangement of hills and a long and flat (albeit frequently crosswindy) drag to the finish that, as this weekend’s race showed, offers a peloton the opportunity to suck up the day’s final breakaway. It’s not to say that Ghent-Wevelgem is an easy or boring race – but E3′s better.
Fabian Cancellara’s impressive victory at E3 this past weekend could, of course, both prove our point and help the E3 maintain its profile. If Cancellara goes on to another year of success at the Ronde and Paris-Roubaix, riders focusing on those two races in subsequent years may choose the E3 over Ghent-Wevelgem. It may be too soon to declare the death of E3.