Sep Vanmarcke (Belkin) has finished second and a third in the last two monuments he’s started. The Belgian rider is now looking to take the only spot on the podium that has eluded him thus far and win Paris-Roubaix this weekend. Vanmarcke says that he is no longer suffering any ill effects from the crash he suffered at the Tour of Flanders and believes that he can take the fight to the rest of the peloton.
"I’m one the challengers, but there are many guys. For sure my condition is good and I like those races, so I think I have a chance," he told Cyclingnews at the start of Scheldeprijs. "I think I can race for the win."
Vanmarcke has had an excellent start to the season, with five top five finishes in just over a month, including third at the Ronde van Vlaanderen. At Flanders, he made it into the leading group of four, but lost out when it came to the final sprint. It was another, close but no cigar, for the Belgian, who was left ruing not starting his sprint earlier.
"There was a chance (to win). I won’t say that I would have won, but there was a chance," he explained. "I am happy that I got the podium, for me it was an important step to get the podium at the Tour of Flanders. But, of course, if you’re so close you want to win and you’re always a little disappointed."
Despite only taking three victories since the beginning of 2012, the 25-year-old continues to look like one of the strongest riders in the bunch when it comes to the cobbles and has quickly moved up the team’s hierarchy. He signed for Belkin last year and, with his stock growing quickly, the team was keen to secure him for the foreseeable future. His contract was due to finish at the end of the season, but he penned a deal with Belkin that would keep him there until 2016.
Vanmarcke finished second to Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) at the 2013 Paris-Roubaix. It was the first time that Vanmarcke really announced himself to the wider public and as a real contender for the big races. His previous best result was victory at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in 2012, when he was riding for Garmin-Barracuda.
Coming so close to the win was a painful experience for the young rider, but in time it has given him the confidence to believe he can do it again. "It was a big experience last year and I had a lot of morale for it that I could finish that race in a good position and race for the win."