Geraint Thomas was one of the strongest riders during Friday's E3 Harelbeke, eventually placing third behind Peter Sagan and Niki Terpstra

Sky’s Geraint Thomas took another step towards winning a cobbled classic today in Belgium’s E3 Harelbeke. He attacked on the Oude Kwaremont, thinned out an elite lead group and sprinted to third behind winner Peter Sagan (Cannondale) in Harelbeke.

“On Kwaremont, I just thought sod it, just go for it and see what happens,” Thomas told reporters at the sunny and warm finish in Flanders. “I just had a dig up there.”

Sagan attacked on the last hill towards Harelbeke’s city limits and dropped sprinter John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano). He arrived in the final 20 kilometres with Thomas and two Omega Pharma riders – Niki Terpstra and Stijn Vandenbergh – for company.

“We all worked really well together,” Thomas said. They built their advantage up to one minute, while race favourites Tom Boonen and Fabian Cancellara suffered behind after a crash held them up.

“Coming into the finish it didn’t feel like I had the kick that the other boys had, like Sagan and Terpstra, so it didn’t feel like there was much point in trying to jump them,” continued Thomas.

“It felt like they were accelerating a lot better than me, so I just thought that I would gamble it all on the sprint and who know what can happen. Then in the sprint, when [Vandenbergh] went, I just tried to be the first to go and take a bit of a run at him and hopefully hold off somebody.”

Thomas placed fourth last year, just off the podium. The third place in Harelbeke bodes well for the upcoming classics Ghent-Wevelgem and the Tour of Flanders.

“You never know in Flanders, maybe Sagan won’t be there. Sagan struggled on the Kwaremont today. He tried to impress on the last climb but you could see ‘G’ was strong enough to get there,” Sky’s sports director, Servais Knaven told Cycling Weekly.

“I have a feeling that ‘G’ is not weaker than Sagan and in some moments today, he was stronger or the strongest of the peloton… I take encouragement from this result, and I’m sure he will.”

The Welshman fell short last spring. He placed fourth in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and E3 Harelbeke, but crashes eliminated his chances in the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. Barring bad luck, today’s result and Paris-Nice last month, shows that he is on track for something more in the coming two weeks.