Sep Vanmarcke (LottoNL-Jumbo) proved that any Tour de France fatigue was well and truly out of his system with a race-defining but ultimately disappointing ride in the RideLondon-Surrey Classic on Sunday.
The Belgium rider was making his first serious competitive outing since the Tour as he builds up for the World Championships later in the year.
Vanmarcke started slowly in London but helped form the race-winning breakaway when he broke clear with seven other riders with around 70km remaining.
A classics specialist, Vanmarcke even managed an attack 15 kilometres from home but was reeled in before the line with Jean-Pierre Drucker (BMC Racing) taking the win ahead of Vanmarcke’s teammate Mike Teunissen and Ben Swift (Team Sky).
“It took a while until I felt okay. This was my first race since the Tour de France and I didn’t do too much last week,” Vanmarcke told Cyclingnews at the finish.
“On the hills I felt okay and then on the second last hill I attacked and opened the race up. From then on it was hard racing and we got away in a group of eight.
“With 15km to go I saw my moment but it was a headwind all the time. That was my problem in the last few kilometres I had to slow. They caught me with 1.5km to go and that was a little disappointing.”
Vanmarcke’s solo bid wasn’t helped by a race motorbike almost taking him out of the race, however, he at least survived the ordeal as he starts a phase of racing that will lead towards the Worlds.
“After this I have a little break and then start in Hamburg and I want to be good in Plouay but especially so in the race in Canada, and then hopefully the Worlds. Last year I was in Canada for the first time and I was seventh in one race. They’re good races for me.”
Of course Vanmarcke must prove he is worthy of selection for the Worlds before he can form any designs of success. In all likelihood, he should make the national team but results in the build up would do his chances no harm at all.
“The problem is that you always need to be selected and that means you need to be good before the Worlds. Maybe that’s not the best way but it’s the way it is. It’s a bit more difficult now because I planned to be good only starting at Canada and the selcetion will be made before those races. I’ll see what happens and if I’m selected. It’s up to the coach.
“It’s a course that suits me. They say that it has some hills like the Flemish ones and there are some cobbled sections."
Greg Van Avermaet and Philippe Gilbert are the probable candidates to lead Belgium at the Worlds, especially given their recent form.
“Everyone is on a really good level so if you look at how Phil and Greg are riding then for sure they are going to be the leaders of the team. The rest of us could still have chances but we have to race as a team.”