While Johan Van Summeren (Garmin-Cervélo) was enjoying his time in the spotlight on top of the podium in the vélodrome of Roubaix on Sunday afternoon, his teammate and compatriot Sep Vanmarcke was recovering while slowly realizing what had happened during the past six hours of Paris-Roubaix.
The 22-year-old made a debut in the Hell of the North that didn't go unnoticed. Vanmarcke showed he can come back to this race in a few years with the high aspirations of lifting the giant cobblestone in the air himself.
"I believe it," Vanmarcke said. "My father constantly told me that he'd love to have me ride Paris-Roubaix because it would suit me even better than the Ronde van Vlaanderen. The Ronde does suit me but now, I didn't quite believe him but I think he's right. I'll be quicker at the top in this race than the Ronde van Vlaanderen; it suits me completely," Vanmarcke said.
The young Belgian showed his talent last year during Gent-Wevelgem when he finished as runner-up behind winner Bernhard Eisel (HTC-Highroad) in his first year as a professional rider.
This year he switched from the small Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator team to Garmin-Cervélo. A confirmation of his talent came in the semi-classic E3 Harelbeke where he finished fourth. His good form earned him a spot in the Paris-Roubaix line-up and he didn't disappoint team manager Jonathan Vaughters as he was always present in support of the team until deep in the finale.
"My job was to get into the early breakaway. I joined the attacks during the first 90km but I didn't get away. I spent a huge amount of energy in those attempts and expected that my race would be over at Arenberg," Vanmarcke said.
"Amazingly, I was still riding near the front of the race as the cobblestones were passing by and even more surprisingly, after the forest of Wallers I was completely at the front [of the peloton]," Vanmarcke said.
When coming out of the forest, eventual winner Van Summeren went into the counter-attack, even though he was expected to stay with team leader and world champion Thor Hushovd as long as he could. Vanmarcke stood up and took over Van Summeren's role in the favourites group. "I was even getting better and could work very well. I followed team orders and attacked when I was asked to."
With his move, Vanmarcke anticipated the attack from top favourite Cancellara and thus he was able to do even more work for Hushovd when the peloton was brought down to a group of seven riders, at short distance from the large breakaway group with teammates Gabriel Rasch and Van Summeren.
"We were in a great position and it allowed us to use the numbers. Eventually being able to finish as twentieth is great. It's super for the future," Vanmarcke concluded.
For now, it was Van Summeren's day in the Hell Classic and for Vanmarcke it was not a surprise that the giant Belgian won in Roubaix.
"He's a good guy who knows what he's capable of and what not. He knows that Paris-Roubaix is the one top one-day classic he can win and now he proved it. Last week he was in troubles with his knee. He trained a couple of times for seven hours and he told me it went all right. During the race he constantly told me that he was super," Vanmarcke said while keeping an eye on Summie who was lifting the cobblestone-trophy in the air a few metres further away. For now, Vanmarcke has to wait until his time has come but is without a doubt a rider to watch in the future.