Belgian Sep Vanmarcke pulled off a surprise coup at the 2010 edition of Gent-Wevelgem when he sprinted to a second place finish on Sunday afternoon.
The little known Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator rider couldn't overcome Bernhard Eisel (HTC-Columbia), but was able to upstage compatriot Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) in the sprint into Wevelgem.
"I'm pretty happy, I'm only 21 and I didn't expect this," Vanmarcke told Cyclingnews afterwards.
Racing in his first full season for the Belgian Professional Continental squad, Vanmarcke held his own in a ten-man selection formed on the final ascent of the Baneberg. However, Vanmarcke's passage in the group wasn't entirely without incident and at one point in the escape he was chastised by Oscar Freire (Rabobank) for missing turns.
"I was having a bad moment. He said 'if you can't come through, go to the back of the group'," said Vanmarcke. "I dropped to the back and recovered for a few minutes and then started pulling again."
Ironically, it was Freire who would eventually lose touch with the lead group as Vanmarcke readied himself for the biggest finish of his three-year professional career. Although his final position would eventually be decided in a sprint, Vanmarcke had attempted to avoid direct confrontation through an attack three kilometres from the finish.
"Everyone was looking at each other so I said 'why not'. I had a gap of 100 metres and I could hold the speed, but then I had cramps and the others came back to me," he said. "I banged my legs with my fists a few times and fortunately was able to recover enough to sprint."
In his post-race press conference, race winner Eisel expressed admiration for his young rival's performance. "He was fighting all day, he started to struggle with 30 kilometres to go, but it was a good attack at the end; he put up a nice fight," he said.
"I hope he's one for the future, for your sake," said Eisel to the assembled media, adding with a laugh, "But for me I hope not."