Jonathan Vaughters has announced that Sep Vanmarcke will be Garmin-Barracuda's sole leader at this year's Tour of Flanders. The Belgian rider has had a breakthrough season with victory in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, followed by 7th in Dwars Door Vlaanderen and 5th in E3 Harelbeke.
"Sep is going to be the sole leader in Flanders. With the parcours this year, it's a race of attrition and strength, not tactics, so the best chance is to focus on the strongest rider, as opposed to playing a broader tactic, like you can in Roubaix," Vaughters told Cyclingnews.
Last year Garmin headed into the race with a three-pronged attack consisting of then world champion Thor Hushovd, Heinrich Haussler and Tyler Farrar. However with the Norwegian now at BMC and Haussler and Farrar unsuited to the harshness of the new Flanders course, Vanmarcke will shoulder the burden as the team's only leader, something Vaughters believes his rider is well capable of.
Starting with his win in Omloop Vanmarcke has proved to be one of the strongest riders on the Spring Classic circuit. However with Fabian Cancellara and Tom Boonen to contend with, the young Belgian will be competing against the two Classics riders of their generation.
"I think the race will come down to legs not tactics. I don't see any other clear favorites.
"Sep will have to be a bit better than he was in E3 in order to contend. He was the only guy that could follow Boonen's attacks, but just barely...and he paid for his tenacity following those attacks later in the race. In Flanders he'll need another two per cent, or he'll need to be very intelligent and miserly with his energy."
While Vanmarcke started the spring in fine form the likes of Boonen have improved their fitness since the early skirmishes in Omloop. Vaughters doesn't believe that Vanmarcke's form has dropped since that race in February and that his best may be around the corner.
"He only race five days before Omloop and he didn't do Gent Wevelgem or De Panne. Bonnen, on the other hand has had almost 40 days of racing now. So, I think Sep will be in peak form, the question is whether his peak is good enough to match Cancellara and Boonen.
"What is clear is that RadioShack and QuickStep, along with Liquigas, will need to take responsibility for the race. Our team, with Millar and Ramunas out with broken bones, will not be the one to assume control."