EF Education First's Sep Vanmarcke is in a race against time to try to be ready for Sunday's Tour of Flanders, after crashing and injuring his knee at the E3 BinckBank Classic last Friday.
After sitting out Gent-Wevelgem two days later, the Belgian may use Wednesday's Dwars door Vlaanderen to test out his knee in competition, but, in consultation with team medical staff, will make whatever decision is necessary to try to be on the start line for Flanders this weekend.
"Sep's ankle, knee and ribs took the impact of his crash," EF Education First team doctor David Castol said on the team's website soon after the crash. "Sep's focus is his preparation for Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. We will look to use Wednesday's race at the Dwars door Vlaanderen as a test of his recovery."
Vanmarcke has twice finished second at Flanders – in 2014 and 2016 – while he finished second at Paris-Roubaix in 2013, and has finished fourth there twice, in 2014 and 2016. The 30-year-old's consistency over the past few seasons is what keeps him on the list of favourites year-to-year, and he hopes to be able to build on last year's results of 13th at Flanders and sixth at Roubaix.
He has already tasted victory this season, winning the opening stage of the Tour du Haut Var, and the first leader's jersey, in a small-group sprint ahead of Delko Marseille Provence's Julien El Fares.
"Saturday and Sunday I could train for an hour," Vanmarcke told nieuwsblad.be, "but today [Monday] I had to stop after 10 minutes. The kneecap isn't moving as it should, and causes a stabbing pain and irritation. The swelling hasn't decreased, and we're currently doing everything we can to prevent the joint from becoming too inflamed."
He also gave a further update on his injuries on his Instagram account on Monday.
"At this moment, the ankle is still a bit stiff and the ribs are also sensitive, but the biggest issue is my knee," Vanmarcke wrote. "The knee is still swollen, and I have pain on and around the kneecap. Because of this, I'm not able to ride my bike in a decent way.
"I don't know if I'll be able to start at Dwars door Vlaanderen. We'll look at it day-by-day," he said.
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