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Four seasons after he won the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad with the Garmin-Cervélo/Slipstream Sports setup, the team – now called Cannondale-Drapac – has confirmed that Sep Vanmarcke will return to the fold in 2017.
The Belgian finished second in Paris-Roubaix in 2013 and was fourth in both 2014 and again this year. He is regarded as a major contender for the race victory and news of his signing follows a Tweet underlining this pedigree by the team CEO.
I love Paris-Roubaix. It's my favorite race, by far. So, I figured we needed to sign a guy that can win Paris-Roubaix. And we did…
— Jonathan Vaughters (@Vaughters) August 4, 2016
Vanmarcke has said that he will race with the team until at least the end of 2018 and that he believes what is planned will give him a major chance of winning the top Classics.
“I’ve always kept a special feeling for the team, because I started my career in the WorldTour as part of the Slipstream organization,” he stated on Friday. “My contact with the team over the past years has always been warm and with respect for each other. Knowing my contract was expiring, I was not surprised that Jonathan Vaughters and Cannondale-Drapac showed interest in me. But what surprised me was their idea for the future.
“Cannondale-Drapac gives me the opportunity to help create a very strong classics team for the next two years and to implement my own ideas. I’m 28 years old, my strongest years are ahead of me and I want all the details to be in place in order to reach my goals. The potential in this team is huge, the shareholders and sponsors have the same goals as I have, there is already a good and experienced classics group, including riders as Sebastian Langeveld and youngster Dylan van Baarle.
“Then there is also the coaching staff, with Andreas Klier – who was my teammate on Garmin some years ago – and the fact that my brother Ken Vanmarcke will join the team as sport director and member of the performance staff,” Vanmarcke added. “I just have to say Jonathan [Vaughters] and the board came up with an impressive plan for the future and I’m excited to be part of that.”
— Cannondale-Drapac (@Ride_Argyle) August 5, 2016
Vanmarcke is 28 years of age and made his WorldTour debut with Garmin-Cervélo. Vaughters said that he admires the rider and always wanted to bring him back to the team.
“I was always drawn to Sep. This goes back to me seeing him for the first time Ghent-Wevelgem in 2010, and it was so impressive. I’ve always thought he’s an incredible cobbles rider,” he stated. “And I love those races. Flanders and Roubaix, those are the greatest races in bike racing.
“When Sep left us, I understood it. He needed to go to a bigger budget team. I always thought, though, ‘if we ever get another opportunity with this guy, I’m going to put everything I have into it.’ I believe he can win Roubaix, I believe he can win Flanders. He’s a hard, Flandrian rider who knows how to get the job done.”
When he left the team at the end of 2012, he competed with the Belkin and LottoNL-Jumbo setup. In that time he continued to gain strength and experience. In addition to the aforementioned three top-four finished in Paris-Roubaix, he was twice third in the Tour of Flanders, finished second in this year’s Gent-Wevelgem and won the 2016 Ster ZLM Toer.
He also took a spate of top finishes in one day races such as Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, Strade Bianche, E3 Harelbeke and the RideLondon-Surrey Classic.
Those results and the experience he gained have helped convince him that he can aim for the biggest Classic wins.
“I became stronger and managed to get on the podium in Monuments like Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. I learned how to lead a team, to put the eyes in the same direction so we can reach the maximum in a race,” he said. “In the past few years I’ve been close to the victory in the monuments. I would really like to win Tour of Flanders or Paris-Roubaix. After the spring, I want to work towards the Tour de France and fight for a stage win.”
One of those who will be guiding him is past teammate Andreas Klier.
“Sep is very hungry to get his Tour of Flanders victory,” Klier said. “And you can see that from afar, with all the races he is doing as a build up towards that race. He lives that whole Belgian three-week classic campaign through the entire year. And that is what I respect and like a lot, when I think about Sep as a rider. You can’t force that last step [to victory]. You have to work hard, together with him, hand in hand, step by step. If we keep calm and work hard, this last step up is very realistic.”
Of course team strength will also be crucial in boosting Vanmarcke’s chances. Vaughters said that the backing he needs is already in place, and that this could make the difference next spring.
“The key element is Sebastian Langeveld, who’s finished top 10 in all the big ones as well. And then Dylan Van Baarle. So you’ve got an old, cold head who understands the lay of the land, and you’ve got Dylan, who’s a ball of horsepower,” stated Vaughters. “At the end of those big Classics, no team has more than three, four guys. What I feel like we have, with Dylan and Sebastian, is a very deep Classics squad that will be able to get Sep in a good position to win.”
Announcements about further signings are expected in the coming weeks.
A behind-the-scenes video from earlier this year.