It has been ten years since a young Sep Vanmarcke went to head to head with Fabian Cancellara at the 2013 Paris – Roubaix. In the two-man sprint in the iconic velodrome, the 24-year-old Belgian wasn’t able to hold Cancellara off to take the win, instead settling for the second step on the podium. But an already growing love for cycling’s third Monument of the season was well and truly confirmed that day.
Vanmarcke has gone on to finish in the top-ten on five occasions and apart from his first edition in 2012, he has never finished lower than 23rd. With a palmarès like that, it comes as no surprise that Paris – Roubaix is one of Vanmarcke’s favourite races.
Even with nine participations to his name, a recon of the course is a crucial part of the pre-race preparation and after checking out the muddy course with his IPT teammates on Friday, Vanmarcke is ready to race.
“It was the first time I have done a Paris – Roubaix recon on a Friday as normally I do it on Thursday. And it makes a difference because if you do it on Thursday, you don’t really know what to do on Friday anymore. You don’t want to rest but you can’t train too much so I actually liked it like this. It was muddier yesterday than I expected, especially as I drove the last 90 kilometers by car on Wednesday and it was all clean. Now, the first part was really muddy and the sector after the Arenberg was probably the cleanest sector as until then, it wasn’t at all. Now it should dry up a bit before Sunday,” says Vanmarcke.
After a solid Classics season including third place at Gent – Wevelgem, Vanmarcke is dreaming of standing on the podium in the middle of the Roubaix velodrome again.
“The dream is to be on the podium again, like I was ten years. It all depends on how the race goes. If you feel you get the maximum out of the race and get a good result, you will be happy. If you feel like you have the best legs of the whole season and you get a flat tire at the worst possible moment, you will be disappointed. But that’s Paris – Roubaix.”
The unpredictable nature of Paris – Roubaix means nothing is certain but with Vanmarcke heading up the team, Sports Director Steve Bauer is confident in IPT’s chances on Sunday.
“Sep is our number one leader and we have a lot of confidence in him to deliver a great result on Sunday. The key to a successful Paris – Roubaix is all about having numbers in the final and less so about having good luck but rather, avoiding bad luck. It is the most unpredictable Classic by far. We had a good recon on Friday and although the conditions were quite muddy, we expect it to dry out quite a bit before Sunday but I don’t think riders will be able to ride in the gutters like they normally try to, so it’s going to be a particularly tough edition,” explains Bauer.
“Alongside Sep, we have strong guys like Guillaume Boivin and Tom Van Asbroeck, both of whom finished in the top-ten in 2021, and riders like Rick Zabel, Jens Reynders, and our two debutants Itamar Einhorn and Derek Gee for positioning and lead outs into the cobbles. We have a strong and experienced team and we’ll give it everything on Sunday.”
While Vanmarcke is heading to the start line for the tenth time, Israeli road race champion Itamar Einhorn is not only lining up for his first Paris – Roubaix but will make history as the first Israeli to ever race Paris – Roubaix.
“I’m excited and of course, a bit nervous. We had a good recon yesterday and really went hard on a few cobbles sectors but of course it will be even harder and faster in the race. I don’t think so much on the fact that I am the first Israeli rider to do Paris – Roubaix, I am first focusing on working for the team and hopefully making it to the velodrome in Roubaix,” adds Einhorn.