Throughout his career, Israel-Premier Tech rider Sep Vanmarcke has developed an unwanted reputation for bad luck as illness, injuries, and crashes have derailed his targets time and again. This week the Belgian has once again been hit by a setback as his team announced that he'd miss Wednesday's Nokere Koerse due to illness.
The 33-year-old Vanmarcke had already been forced to miss Opening Weekend and the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, which he won in 2012, due to a cold. Now, he's been hit by a fever during a training camp in Tenerife.
Speaking to Het Nieuwsblad (opens in new tab), Vanmarcke said that he had no other signs of illness at the time but has now suffered a recurrence after returning home to Belgium to get back to racing.
"I got sick halfway through the training camp," he said. "I suddenly had a fever, but otherwise hardly any symptoms of illness. Nevertheless, the decision was made to move to a hotel at the bottom of the mountain to let the body rest.
"That worked and I felt well again. But after coming home I started to feel bad. After consulting with the team management, we agreed that racing in these conditions was out of the question. What a season of bad luck again."
Vanmarcke had already started his season behind schedule after ending his 2021 suffering knee pain that kept him off the bike until December 20 – "I've done 50 days less training," he told Cyclingnews last month.
He had earlier suffered a small tibia fracture during a Paris-Roubaix which saw him puncture three times and break a seat post, while at the Vuelta a España he abandoned two days from the finish after crashing four times during the race.
Despite the litany of misfortune, Vanmarcke started his 2022 season well with second place behind Elia Viviani (Ineos Grenadiers) in a small group sprint on stage 1 of the Tour de la Provence, though little has gone right for him since.
"I saw it going well," he said of his early season. "That cold was a blow, but I was able to leave on training camp to prepare for the other spring races."
That camp, on the well-visited Mount Teide, was a conscious choice Vanmarcke had taken to avoid the week-long stage races – and the misfortune he had suffered in the past – at Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico, he said.
"I had consciously chosen that new path and didn't put Paris-Nice or Tirreno-Adriatico on my program. I wanted to try something different to try to beat the top riders.
"That altitude training would make me extra strong, or so I hoped. And I had often come out of those stage races sick or with injuries. Unfortunately, it turned out differently again."
Despite all the bad luck, though, Vanmarcke is still positive about the rest of his spring campaign, which will be geared towards Paris-Roubaix, a race he finished second at back in 2013.
His Israel-Premier Tech team performed well at the race last year, with Hugo Houle and Tom Van Asbroeck up front right at the sharp end of the race, both scoring top 10 finishes despite Houle crashing out of the winning group on Camphin-en-Pévèle.
"I know when I'm healthy, I'm still competing for the win in the big races," Vanmarcke said. "But I have to be honest: it's not looking so good right now. But who knows, things might turn around soon.
"The fact that Paris-Roubaix is one week later this year, [a week] after the Amstel Gold Race, is an advantage. I've already proven that I can focus incredibly on that race. Then all my bad luck could stop. You have to accept the situation and try to look further ahead, but it's quite difficult."
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Daniel Ostanek is production editor at Cyclingnews, having joined in 2017 as a freelance contributor and later being hired as staff writer. Before Cyclingnews, he was published in numerous publications around the cycling world, including Procycling, CyclingWeekly, CyclingTips, Cyclist, and Rouleur, among others. As well as reporting and writing news and features, Daniel runs the 'How to watch' content throughout the season.
Daniel has reported from the world's top races, including the Tour de France, and has interviewed a number of the sport's biggest stars, including Egan Bernal, Wout van Aert, Remco Evenepoel, Mark Cavendish, and Anna van der Breggen. Daniel rides a 2002 Landbouwkrediet Colnago C40 and his favourite races are Strade Bianche and the Vuelta a España.