Vanmarcke, twice third at the Tour of Flanders during the last three seasons, skipped Gent-Wevelgem in order to ensure he is in the best possible condition for Sunday. The 28-year-old admits he is going into the unknown without having an ideal race build-up.
“I’ve done everything I can, together with a medical team, to be ready. It’s gotten better and I’m happy with that. We’ll have to wait until Sunday to see if the throwing up will come back or not, if I’m strong enough,” he said in statement released by the team.
Having returned to Slipstream after five years in Dutch teams, Vanmarcke has reacquainted himself with the team he rode for from 2010 to 2012. His Classics campaign started well enough with third in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, however two DNFs soon followed and lacklustre results in Dwars Door Vlaanderen and E3 Harelbeke due to a stomach bug saw him forgo Gent-Wevelgem and rest up.
“The whole group is devoted to giving Sep the best chance to succeed,” said the team’s Classics director Andreas Klier. “The plan is to protect Sep, to keep him in the right place and the right time as much as we can.”
Vanmarcke will be supported by Alberto Bettiol, Ryan Mullen, Sebastian Langeveld, Tom Van Asbroeck, Dylan van Baarle, Tom Scully and American Taylor Phinney.
Phinney back in Belgium
The former winner of the U23 Paris-Roubaix has also had injury problems of late. He missed the Classics so far this season but recently recovered enough to force his way into Cannondale-Drapac’s Classics team for Flanders.
Phinney has not raced more than 200km this season and the Tour of Flanders will be the first time his knee has broken the 250km barrier since last year’s World Championships road race, but he is determined to perform to the best of his ability.
“I haven’t done any Classics this year because of my leg, because of a small re-injury. It’s nice to go into Flanders completely fresh mentally and not scarred by any of the previous Classics. It’s a long stretch when you do the whole thing starting in Omloop, which was right when I had my little incident,” he said.
“I’ve been hanging out in Belgium this week. I have to do something almost every day to make sure my body responds the way I want it to, that my knee is working properly. Everything is getting better. The whole system is responding.”
If Vanmarcke falters the team may look to Bettiol to step up. The talented 23-year-old finished 10th in E3 Harelbeke and was in the mix during Gent-Wevelgem before eventually finishing 32nd. The Italian, riding in just his second cobbled Classics campaign, has improved massively since making his debut last year.
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