A second and fourth place in previous Paris-Roubaix rides, and a third place in last year's Tour of Flanders seemed to be a promising foreshadow of his future first Monument victory. But this year's Flanders was a disaster after he missed out on the first cut and failed to bridge back up. His bad luck continued on Sunday's Paris-Roubaix when he was thrown backwards again with a flat tyre right after making a big move.
Vanmarcke eventually reached the finish line in Roubaix in a large group that sprinted for 10th place together with pre-race favourites Bradley Wiggins (Sky) and Alexander Kristoff (Katusha). Vanmarcke was beaten by Kristoff and finished 11th. Afterwards he dropped down on the grass inside the track and took his time to recover. The team soigneur and his brother Ken were present to help him freshen up before talking to the media.
"Once again, there was that 'doom' that featured during the whole spring season," Vanmarcke sighed. "On every key moment in a race, just when I have to go I puncture or something else happens. It’s a klote spring season because I became stronger compared to last year but there wasn’t a moment that I was able to show it.
"I felt good. The team rode super today. It's sad because I wanted to make it a long final 30 kilometres. The wind would be in favour too. It's just not working out."
On the road to Roubaix, Vanmarcke made a big acceleration on the cobbles of Bourghelles à Wannehain, which created a lot of damage at less than 25 kilometres from Roubaix. Only the big names managed to stay in touch, including last year's winner Niki Terpstra, Lars Boom and eventual winner John Degenkolb. Then Vanmarcke flatted while Jürgen Roelandts launched a solo attack. Vanmarcke was forced to chase again.
"It happened just when I wanted to start my finale. I attacked a first time and split up the group. We were going to come together with five or four. I wanted to give everything one last time. There would not have been a lot of guys left."
A few moments later Vanmarcke was spotted in a large group that tried to come back on the first peloton. His teammates Maarten Wynants and Tom Van Asbroeck were digging deep to limit the damages ahead of the important pavé sectors 5 and 4, Camphin-en-Pévèle and the Carrefour de l'Arbre.
"I had to chase full gas that late into the race. Luckily Maarten Wynants and Tom Van Asbroeck were able to ride flat out to come back as close as possible. That way I managed to bridge back up on sector 5, I think. I had just done my attack, then I had to change my wheel. Then I rode with a wheel which was 87 years old, I think. It was a wheel that was totally unsuitable to ride Paris-Roubaix. I received from the neutral motorbike.
"That's the way you have to continue. On the Carrefour de l'Arbre I was only able to hang on. It was the only thing I could do because I had done a lot of efforts at that moment. Afterwards there were some attacks. I jumped myself, I reacted but couldn't react on every move as I needed to recover. Then some serious guys were riding away. On sector 2 I bridged up to them. In the sprint I got the maximum out of it. I was only beaten by Kristoff. I don’t know what my result is but I think that it was honourable that I kept fighting until the finish line."
After his poor showing at Flanders, the LottoNL-Jumbo team leader felt there was a lot of criticism in the media about his physical conditions which he felt was undeserved.
"It was annoying last week. My spring season was good but there was always something not going my way. For example, in [Omloop] Het Nieuwsblad, for example, [E3] Harelbeke where I would battle with the best until the end. It could never happen. Last week I chased the victory but made tactical mistakes. I was good too but it was good to see how some media were writing me off.
"I let them have their say and today I wanted to show that I wasn't physically done and that I was capable of pulling it off. It was a spring season of bad luck. Finally, it's holiday," Vanmarcke said. Then he got back up on his feet and thanked his teammate Tom Van Asbroeck, before getting back on his bike and riding out of a Roubaix vélodrome that up until now seems cursed for him.