SCHOTEN, Belgium (VN) — This spring was supposed to be it for Sep Vanmarcke (Blanco), the young Belgian who rode so brilliantly in the classics of 2012.
Heading into the season, it would have been reasonable to pick him to be a factor on these cold and windswept roads: he placed in the top 10 at three of the cobbled classics last season, and he won Omloop Het Nieuwsblad while riding for Garmin-Sharp.
But a crash at Tirreno-Adriatico puffed up his knee, and he was lucky to avoid the scalpel. It kicked the 24-year-old off the bike just as he was chasing peak form for E3 Harelbeke, Ghent-Wevelgem, Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders), and Paris-Roubaix. He’s fought his way back, and finished just under three minutes behind winner Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Leopard) at Flanders.
“After last year I was pretty confident. No injuries, no illness,” Vanmarcke said. “So I was thinking to make another step of progression, and to make a really good spring classics season. And yeah, I had the worst luck I could get.”
He did crash on the Valkenberg at Flanders, but he was able to catch back on and found himself in position on the Oude Kwaremont when the fireworks started to pop. Ultimately, he was unable to follow Cancellara. But really, hardly anyone could.
Vanmarcke said his form is looking up for Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix.
“Day after day, week after week, I feel better again,” he told VeloNews at the start line of Wednesday’s Scheldeprijs. “I lost some time to train, and a big week that I wasn’t doing anything. That was the worst thing that could happen right before the classics.
“I lost a lot of condition. And now, it’s slowly coming back. Actually, it’s pretty fast coming back now. Between Harelbeke and Flanders, I made a big step. I hope for next Sunday I can make another step.”
Roubaix will fall to RadioShack and Cancellara, as Spartacus enters as the heavy favorite. That will only make things harder for the Swiss rider.
“He’s good. But his whole team is going to have to carry the race,” Vanmarcke said. “So it’s going to be hard. I think they need to do it alone. Which it probably will be, then he will come into a situation when he’s alone pretty early I think.”
After the Hell of the North, Vanmarcke will take a rest before charting out the rest of his 2013 campaign.