LottoNL-Jumbo is hoping Sep Vanmarcke can break out in 2016 and win a major one-day classic.
The 27-year-old Belgian has been one of the most consistent performers in the northern classics, but he’s yet to score a big win. The Dutch-registered team is betting that will change in 2016.
“We want to win a classic this year,” said sport director Nico Verhoeven at the team presentation over the weekend. “At the monuments — Milano-Sanremo, Flanders and Roubaix — we are targeting at least the podium. The bar should be set high, as does Sep for himself.”
Over the past few seasons, Vanmarcke has been one of the most consistent riders in the northern classics, with a second at the 2013 Paris-Roubaix and a third at the Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders) in 2014. After some promising top-10s in the lead-up races last season, with fifth at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and E3 Prijs-Harelbeke, he faltered in the major classics and took 53rd at Flanders and 11th at Roubaix.
Following the exit of Lars Boom, who joined Astana in 2015, Vanmarcke is the team’s main man for the classics.
“I underwent surgery on my wrist late in November, but I recovered from that without any problems,” Vanmarcke said in a team release. “I’ve had a good pre-season this winter. I slowed down a bit this off-season. My race schedule changed some, and I did everything to make sure that I will start the most important races as fresh as possible. The Flemish classics and Paris-Roubaix are, of course, my biggest targets this season.”
LottoNL has some experienced support riders, including Bram Tankink, Maarten Tjallingii, Maarten Wynants, and Tom Van Asbroeck, but Vanmarcke is their captain on the cobbles.
“Before Sep joined our team, we already had a good [classics] team around Lars Boom,” Verhoeven said. “Some of those riders are still with the team. Sep is now our leader, and the other guys know what to do.”
Vanmarcke will ease into the season, debuting at the Volta ao Algarve in February. After Paris-Nice, he will race Milano-Sanremo for the first time. He will race a full “cobbles week” schedule, from E3 to Roubaix, and will add Amstel Gold Race for the first time as well.
“I will do Milano-Sanremo and the Amstel Gold Race for the first time,” he said. “I expect to be able to compete with the best in Milano-Sanremo.”
After five seasons at LottoNL, Vanmarcke will draw plenty of interest on the rider market later this summer. With Fabian Cancellara (Trek-Segafredo) retiring and Tom Boonen (Etixx-Quick-Step) edging closer to retirement, the top classics teams will be taking an interest in signing him. His value would skyrocket if he could score a big win at Flanders or Roubaix.