• Vanmarcke finishes fifth

  • Delivers ISN’s best result ever in a monument

  • Whole team shines in the ‘Pinnacle of Classics’

Belgian classics specialist Sep Vanmarcke rounded off an amazing display of teamwork in the Tour of Flanders. Vanmarcke, sick last week, was very happy he could ‘give something back for the confidence of the team’.

A 10:00 AM start time in Antwerp meant an early morning for the Israel Start-Up Nation staff and riders. The bus, mostly prepared for the race the night before, left the hotel at 7:15. This meant the travel to the start line was the last moment of rest for the riders before a busy day ahead.

Sports director Eric van Lancker worked out a detailed nutrition and mechanical plan for the race which took place on Flemish soil. On the top of every single ‘berg’, a soigneur and mechanic were available for assistance. The soigneurs were (fortunately) busier than the mechanics: the demand for Maurten 160, 320, and gels was significantly higher than spare wheels.

Just as expected, several teams controlled the race from the very beginning, not allowing a big group of escapees to leave up the road. For ISN, the first half of the race meant saving energy, enjoying the slipstream of the peloton, and positioning well for crucial moments in the race.

Team leader Sep Vanmarcke, experienced as he is in racing the spring classics, could take it relatively easy at the beginning of the race. As one of 53 Belgian riders at the start line, he had to race for the second year in a row without the extraordinary support of Belgian fans, but he did get special treatment from his teammates. They supported him all the way.

Vanmarcke said after the finish he was impressed by how much help he received from his teammates. “The whole team seemed to have a great day today.”

With Vanmarcke, a strong Hugo Hofstetter made the shift on the Taaienberg, where the race exploded for the first time. Just behind the two, an impressive Jenthe Biermans and a great Tom van Asbroeck made it into a second group.

Again, Hugo helped Sep get in a good position on a climb further up the race. The classics specialist then found himself in the second group, seconds behind the first.

The classic trio of climbs (Kruisberg, Oude Kwaremont, and Patersberg) turned out to be decisive, once again.

On the first, a triplet – including the future winner – broke away from the front.

On the second, Sep showed perseverance, trying to bridge the gap of 20 seconds with the leaders.

On the third, he solidly kept position in his group, continuing to chase for a spot on the podium.

Unfortunately, Sep would say after the finish, two riders escaped from his group. That left him sprinting for fifth, the result he would eventually finish with.

It did not leave him disappointed at all, as he was surprised that he could win the sprint of the chasing group.

“I was in survival mode most of the climbs, but I held on every time.”

If one would have told Sep last week that he would finish in the top-5 of one of the biggest races in the season, he wouldn’t have believed it. “Even this morning I did not feel superb and doubted my performance.”

But Vanmarcke was clearly a delighted man after the finish and, with smiles all over his face, he said: “I am very happy I could give something back for the confidence the team kept in me over the last few days.

“I am also proud that I am able to deliver ISN its best result in a monument so far.”

Team ISN got four riders in the top-30. What a great team performance.

#YallaISN #rvv21 #rvv20
Pics: Bettini photo.