Two years after beating Tom Boonen in a sprint at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Sep Vanmarcke came close on grabbing a second win in Ghent on Saturday. The Belgian rider from the Belkin team attacked with 60km remaining and from there he never stopped throwing in accelerations.
A first breakaway attempt fell short, then Vanmarcke became restless behind a breakaway with teammate Lars Boom and once everything came back together at 17km from the St-Peter's square. Two men then escaped: eventual winner Ian Stannard (Sky) and eventual runner-up Greg Van Avermaet (BMC).
Vanmarcke tried to get back to them together with Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma-Quick-Step) and Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) but they fell short. Vanmarcke finished fourth.
"I was close to repeating my win. I certainly felt really strong, one of the strongest in the race. I said I wasn't in peak form just yet and that was correct. I was good, but I'm disappointed," Vanmarcke said.
"Our team was super and they did a super job in delivering me in the finale. I was impressed by what they did and it was up to me to continue that effort. I wanted to go flat out and race. Apparently nobody's keen on racing flat out. Everybody's just waiting. It's sad. If nobody's taking the initiative then nothing's going to happen. Everybody is just trying to save energy instead of racing flat out," Vanmarcke said.
While talking to Cyclingnews right after the finish, Vanmarcke started to shake from the cold. Possibly Vanmarcke didn't realize how much the other riders were already suffering from the cold during the race, due to the rain that started to come down 70km from finish town of Ghent.
"At a certain moment, we were gone with 15 riders after the first hill zone. Four of five men from Quick-Step, two from our team, two BMC'ers and Jurgen Roelandts, but everybody started looking at each other, nobody wanted to race. Then it's a pity. Everybody who was there - except for van Avermaet - didn't finish in front. It's weird that if you're with four riders that you're still not willing to race. They're only fooling themselves. For Boom it was good that the groups got together again because he missed the first breakaway. Then it was good to have him in front. He's strong too, the whole team is strong. We proved that. I'm proud of the guys."
When Stannard and Van Avermaet attacked, Vanmarcke didn't have an answer. A counterattack with Terpstra was marked by Boasson-Hagen.
The Norwegian sat on their wheels as his teammate Stannard was featuring in the lead group. In the sprint for third place, Boasson Hagen easily held off Vanmarcke and Terpstra.
"I used a lot of energy to chase the leaders back down. When the two attacked I was just recovering a second. Maybe I should've reacted earlier, but they were really strong. We just couldn't close it down."