Despite being in the form of his life and being regarded as a top favourite in every Spring classic Sep Vanmarcke (Belkin) is still without a win this year. In the Ronde van Vlaanderen he was beaten in the sprint and at Paris-Roubaix a late solo move from Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma - Quick-Step) ended his bid for glory.
Once again the 25-year-old Belgian showed that he was able to keep up with top favourite Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) when it mattered and he even took the initiative himself a couple of times. But being outnumbered by the Omega Pharma - Quick-Step team in the final kilometres was too much to withstand. Vanmarcke walked away from the Roubaix vélodrome and the Spring classics season empty-handed.
"That's true. I'm disappointed because I really wanted a win in one of these races. I've been battling along in every race but it didn't work out," Vanmarcke said while pointing out it was a different disappointment compared to last year when he was very emotional after getting beaten in the sprint by Fabian Cancellara. "It's different. Last year I rode for the win and I was very disappointed because I felt I could've won. Now I felt I was stronger but I wasn't able to ride for the win. I had very good legs today to go very far, to ride for the win and I was actually able to do that for a long time but there was too much headwind."
According to Vanmarcke that headwind was the main reason that he wasn't able to win on Sunday afternoon. Added to that was the lack of support from Zdenek Stybar (Omega Pharma - Quick-Step).
"It's much harder to get away with a headwind; it always comes back. It didn't happen a lot that for so long forty to fifty riders were riding for the victory. It's a pity," Vanmarcke said. At 19km from the finish Vanmarcke accelerated on the cobbles of Camphin-en-Pévèle. Cancellara joined the attack but later Stybar and John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) were able to bridge up. Soon the lead group reached the famous Carrefour de l'Arbre sector but instead of creating a further selection Vanmarcke noticed the speed dropped.
"At the Carrefour de l'Arbre everybody started thinking about the final sprint and nobody went flat out. Stybar was always able to keep up but he didn't do anything. Degenkolb counted on his sprint. Sadly enough nobody went flat out. That's why others came back. That made it hard to follow if one goes from Quick-Step while there's three or four others. I launched a few attacks before and I couldn't keep reacting because otherwise I would've been considered a fool again," Vanmarcke said. His reaction reflected that the criticism about his attractive but energy-consuming racing style bothered him.
Much earlier there was the brave attack from Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) but Vanmarcke never worried about it since he went from 65km from the finish. "I never panicked. Most of the favourites were still in the peloton. It was early, there was a lot of headwind and they never took a lot of time." Meanwhile his teammates were joining the counter-attacks and at a certain moment the lead group featured three Belkin-riders with Maarten Wynants, Bram Tankink and Lars Boom. "Our guys were up front and I didn't do anything. I awaited an attack from the others. We did what we had to do. Everybody managed to get back every time. We were really strong but we were not rewarded for that."
Vanmarcke will now take a break and get back in competition at the Uno-X Tour of Norway at the end of May. He's racing the Baloise Tour of Belgium and the Tour de Suisse. Vanmarcke is also scheduled to ride the Tour de France in support of Bauke Mollema. During the fifth stage he'll find a stage that suits him well when a mini version of Paris-Roubaix leads the riders from Ieper to the Arenberg forest.