Sep Vanmarcke (Belkin) added yet another top-five result to his 2014 at the Tour of Flanders. The Belgian finished third behind Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) and Greg van Avermaet (BMC) in the final sprint.
Vanmarcke wasn’t about to sit on the wheels of the bigger names and hope for the best, and he put in several big attacks in the final 30km before bridging over to the two leaders. However, he suffered for his efforts and had to hold tight while his body gave it back in kind. The result is his best by far at de Ronde and while he is delighted, there is an element of disappointment that comes with it.
“In the last kilometres, I was having cramps and I said to myself, ‘I have to finish on the podium,’” Vanmarcke said at the finish. “I decided to go on safe. I even closed a gap myself as otherwise I knew I could end up fourth. I'm happy with my third place, but now, slowly, a sense of disillusionment hits me. If I had started the sprint earlier, you never know what could have happened.”
It wasn’t the easiest of days for Vanmarcke and his dreams of Flanders glory could have been over before they started. He was one of the many who crashed in the early stages of the race, hitting the ground hard and looked like he could be out of the race. The Belgian soldiered on and made it back into peloton, but the after effect of the incident stuck with him.
“I fell right on my neck and was suffering for quite a while. I also wasted some power returning to the peloton, but the team continued to motivate me and after the first cobblestone section, I found my rhythm again,” said Vanmarcke. “I started believing in my chances again. When I told my team-mates that, it motivated them. It was very hectic today, but after my crash, I never got into trouble thanks to my teammates. That was great.”
Vanmarcke has had a very consistent start to the year with five top five finishes since Omloop Het Nieuwsblad at the start of March. It’s that consistency that has seen him jump from 18th to fifth in the UCI rankings, leaving the team impressed with another strong performance.
“Today we have gained some extra morale,” said directeur sportif Nico Verhoeven. “The team supported Sep very well until the final and, after that, he fought for what he was worth. He was beaten in a fair fight. Of course, it's a pity that Sep didn't win, but we are very proud of his third place. This is a result, which we haven't been able to achieve in this race in recent years.”
Vanmarcke has been a rising star since he took the battle to Fabian Cancellara at last year’s Paris-Roubaix and came agonisingly close to beating him, but finished second in the final sprint to the line. He might have lost out to the Swiss rider for the second time, but it looks like it’s only a matter of time before he can return the favour. Vanmarcke and Cancellara will face off once again at this weekend’s Paris-Roubaix, where he’ll be looking to add a first place to his list of results.