The Belgian Cycling Federation announced its team for the UCI Road World Championships on Tuesday, naming Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet and Philippe Gilbert to the team for the road race in Bergen together with most of the country's top ranked riders. The only surprise is the absence of Sep Vanmarcke.
Van Avermaet, the winner of Paris-Roubaix and Gent-Wevelgem this year, and Tour of Flanders winner Gilbert were the obvious choices to lead the Belgian team, and most of the riders selected for the road race come from the top of the UCI rankings: Tiesj Benoot (Lotto-Soudal), Jens Keukeleire (Orica-Scott), Oliver Naesen (AG2R La Mondiale), Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo), Dylan Teuns (BMC Racing), and Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal). Only Julien Vermote (Quick-Step Floors) came from the lesser ranks as a support rider.
Belgian national team coach Kevin De Weert said leaving Vanmarcke behind was the most difficult choice. "It has everything to do with the way we want to race. We have two leaders. It's no secret that our team was built around Van Avermaet and Gilbert, and I also had someone like Oliver Naesen, who can be a back-up if one the leaders has a bad day," De Weert told Sporza.be.
Vanmarcke, whose Cannondale-Drapac team's future hangs in the balance, had difficulty accepting the decision.
"The World Championships was my last major goal of this season, so I'm still disappointed," Vanmarcke said. "I hoped I would have been there."
Vanmarcke's spring campaign was derailed by a virus and then a crash in the Tour of Flanders put him out of Paris-Roubaix. He missed out on selection for the Tour de France, but rebounded in the second half of the season.
"I had a good summer, and certainly in the last few weeks, Plouay (Bretagne Classic-Ouest France), for example, I was able to anticipate all the attacks, and at the end I scored a nice 4th place between all the sprinters. That's why I'm a bit surprised at my non-selection."
Vanmarcke remains a reserve, together with Thomas De Gendt, Jan Bakelants, Dries Devenyns and Iljo Keisse.
Yves Lampaert and Laurens De Plus (Quick-Step Floors), and Victor Campenaerts (LottoNl-Jumbo) will compete in the time trial.
Belgian champion Jolien D'Hoore will lead the women's squad with Jessy Druyts, Ann-Sophie Duyck, Lotte Kopecky and Kelly Van den Steen rounding out the team.