Sep Vanmarcke’s move from Garmin-Sharp to the Rabobank set-up was one of 2012’s worst-kept transfer secrets, but by the time the deal was publicly confirmed in October, his new team had lost its title sponsor of 17 years.
The squad will operate under the Blanco Pro Cycling banner in 2013 as it looks to attract a new backer to ensure its existence beyond the end of next year, but while the suddenness of Rabobank’s withdrawal in October came as a surprise, Vanmarcke said that the transfer was never in any doubt.
“I never panicked and I’m still really hopeful that the team will find a sponsor,” Vanmarcke told Cyclingnews at Blanco’s training camp in Fuerteventura. “There are not so many teams like this that are so professional and well worked out. For me, it didn’t make a difference. It’s strange after so many years that Rabobank is gone but I came to the team for the team that it was – that is, the riders, the staff and how they work – and that is the most important thing for me. It’s another shirt, but all the rest stays the same.
Still only 24 years of age, Vanmarcke is Belgium’s coming man in the cobbled classics, and his stock rose still higher last spring when he coolly dispatched of no less a figure than Tom Boonen to take a fine victory at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.
Vanmarcke followed that up with solid showings at E3 Harelbeke and Dwars Door Vlaanderen, but, by his own admission, he struggled with the greater distance at the Tour of Flanders. With that in mind, Vanmarcke was cautious about his prospects in De Ronde, acknowledging that he may yet be a couple of years shy of finishing on the podium in Oudenaarde.
“For sure, I want to do better than last year,” he said. “Harelbeke, Flanders and Roubaix are the big goals and I don’t know what I can get. I think maybe Flanders is maybe a year or two too early and the parcours now is really hard. I don’t know yet how that will be, but in the others, I’m pretty sure I can get into the final and fight for the podium.”
Vanmarcke will share leadership duties in the classics with Lars Boom at Blanco, although Boom has already outlined his case for sole leadership at Paris-Roubaix. After two years of dovetailing his efforts with a variety of leaders at Garmin, Vanmarcke is confident the pair can find common ground on the pavé.
“We need to get to know each other but so far it’s really good,” Vanmarcke said. “Lars has a lot of pressure from Holland and I’m still young and working my way to the top, so if we can share the pressure, then it will be good. If we can both get in the final, we can split the work and we don’t have to gamble so much.”