They call the E3 Saxo Classic the “mini Tour of Flanders”, but for Krists Neilands and Sep Vanmarcke, it may well have felt like the real thing. The notoriously small roads, combined with the 17 steep climbs, or hellingen, meant that positioning was always going to be crucial, and as such it was a high pace all day. The first big push from Matteo Jorgenson went with over eighty kilometers of racing left, and from then on the attacks came thick and fast, until a decisive move on the Oude Kwaremont proved to be the winning move of the day for Wout Van Aert.

Krists Neilands was Israel–Premier Tech’s highest finisher, sprinting to 12th place having left everything on the road to catch the race leaders.

Krists Neilands finished 12th at E3 Saxo Classic
E3 Saxo Classic 2023 – 65th Edition – Harelbeke – Harelbeke 204,1km – 24/03/2023 – Krists Neilands (LAT – Israel – Premier Tech) – photo Luca Bettini/SprintCyclingAgency©2023

“It was a really tough race. Especially for me, as I have never been in this much action there at the front of the peloton at this race. It was great to be there, but unfortunately I had zero legs in the finale. Thanks also to Sep as he gave me a big hand in the race.”

Sep Vanmarcke was also a true fighter on the day, following all the early attacks, and bridging over to escapees on a number of occasions. It was not to be for him, however, as he missed the key attack from Mathieu van der Poel on the Oude Kwaremont.

Talking about his race, while he was disappointed to miss the key move, he knows that this strong performance shows he has the form to bring results at other races in the coming weeks.

“It was a hard edition. I think in all of the years I have done it, it was the first time in the rain. If you know E3 then you know it’s a lot of small roads and a lot of chaos and very nervous racing. The race exploded very early in the race, and Krists and I managed to stay in front at the moment we had to and we were in the race together. Krists did an excellent job to be in the front and I just missed a few meters on the Oude Kwaremont, but it’s promising for the next races.”

Sep Vanmarcke finished 18th on the day
E3 Saxo Classic 2023 – 65th Edition – Harelbeke – Harelbeke 204,1km – 24/03/2023 – Sep Vanmarcke (BEL – Israel – Premier Tech) – photo Luca Bettini/SprintCyclingAgency©2023

For Sports Director, Steve Bauer, it was a promising performance, and he was pleased to see Sep and Krists fighting at the front for the majority of the race.

“It was a positive race for us. We had Sep up with the favorites for a long time, really in the mix with the best challengers of the day, and Krists coming back into the front group and working with Sep to get the best performance possible. It was good to see two of our strong guys in a good place in an extremely tough bike race.”

Talking about the finale, Steve was happy to see Krists at the front end of the race, and knows there’s more to come from the team.

“Krists ran out of a bit of gas at the end but there were a lot of guys running on empty. Stefan Küng made a super strong attack and in the right place at the right time, maybe Krists could have followed that. But eventually he was racing for eighth place which was a solid place to be in. He eventually finished in 12th place which is still a good performance, in his first E3 participation. Sep is just missing a bit as he was ill this week but we hope the progress is good for both of them and they’ll be even better in the next races.”

The classics team will be in action again on Sunday, racing Gent-Wevelgem, another punchy test, throwing cobbled climbs into the mix courtesy of the infamous Kemmelberg.