Sep Vanmarcke's stage 3 win on Friday at the Tour of Alberta carried a lot more meaning for him than just another line on his palmares. The tall Belgian who rides for Belkin carried extra motivation into the three-up sprint with Ramunas Navardauskas (Garmin-Sharp) and Leigh Howard (Orica-GreenEdge).
When he crossed the line to take the victory, Vanmarcke pointed skyward toward the heavens: a brief salute for his friend and fellow Belgian Igor Decraene, the 18-year-old junior world time trial champion who died when he was struck by a train August 30 while riding his bike home from a party in his hometown.
“It was already a few days in my mind,” Vanmarcke told Cyclingnews today before the stage 4 start in Edmonton. “And yeah, I knew it would be very difficult to win. I don't win very often. But it was a big motivation. Even in the sprint I was thinking about it.”
Decraene won the junior time trial world championship last year at 17, and he won the Belgian national time trial title last year and this year. At the time of his death, Decraene was preparing to defend his world title in Ponferrada, Spain, later this month. He was also in line to ride for Omega Pharma-QuickStep’s development squad next year.
Vanmarcke originally expressed his feelings last week on social media, writing on Twitter that he was shocked by the bad news. “A big talent, a very good boy, with both feet on the ground! Why? Can't believe it! RIP Igor.”
Both Vanmarcke and Decraene lived in Zulte, East Flanders, and Vanmarcke said he got to know the promising young rider over the past year.
“We lived only two kilometers from each other,” he said. “I only knew him since last year, but I saw him many times last winter. There were some things we had to do, so there was some connection, and I liked that guy.”