• Vanmarcke: Family and cobbles
  • Growing up in a cycling family
  • “Winning Flanders or Roubaix would be a dream!”

At Israel Start-Up Nation, character and attitude are as important as talent when it comes to signing riders. And when you sign someone to a three-year contract and ask him to talk about himself, and the first thing he talks about is his happy marriage and family, you know you have the right man.

Welcome to our team and family, Sep Vanmarcke.

We all know him as a loyal team worker, a Classics specialist, who won the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, and has more top tens in Classics than we can count. Now we get to know him as a person.

“I’ve been happily married to my wife Hanne since 2016. We have three children, a girl and two boys.

The family lives in Anzegem, Belgium, coincidentally only a few kilometers away from Sport Director Eric Van Lancker, who has worked with Sep in the past. “It is only 10 km away from famous climbs like Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg, and only 30 km from the vélodrome in Roubaix.”

“Family and friends are really important to me. From what I have seen and heard of ISN, there is a good atmosphere in the team. I’m looking forward to getting to know every one there.”

Sports, and especially cycling seem to have been programmed into his genes.

“’My parents were both into sports. My mom never competed, but my dad sometimes raced in local amateur cycling races. He was pretty good at it.”

“I am the youngest of five. My three older brothers and my sister also found their way to cycling, and soon I also fell in love with the sport. When my oldest brother started racing, I was six. From that moment, every weekend I was at their races, supporting them!!

“Every day after school, I was riding my bike, pretending I was in a race against the world’s top riders. When I was 15 my parents allowed me to also start racing.”

Under the watchful eye of family and coaches, he slowly developed his talent. “In the beginning I was happy when I could finish a race. Year after year I got better and eventually, when I turned 21, I could turn pro.”

But just in case, things didn’t turn out, before signing that first contract, “I had a full-time day job for a few years.”

After turning pro and serving two years at a Pro Conti team, he then spent the next ten years with only two teams – “EF (and its previous name) for six years in total (2011-2012 and 2017-2020), and Lotto-Jumbo for four years (2013-2016).”

“I’m a person who likes to see things on a long term. When I like a group or a team, I like to stay.”

His first big result was finishing second in his first Gent-Wevelgem. “Since then cobbled classics have been my main objective,” and at 190 cm and 77 kg, he is built for those races. “The next step up was winning Omloop Het Nieuwsblad ahead of Tom Boonen back in 2012.”

As for many riders, “winning the Tour of Flanders or Paris-Roubaix would be a dream come true.” But unlike many others, “I’ve been close in both races. In 2014 and 2016 I was third in Flanders. In Roubaix I’ve been second (2013) and three times fourth (2014, 2016, and 2019).”

“At ISN I would like to continue to fight for that dream!”

“I like the fact that ISN also has a lot of interest in the Classic races. I hope that together we can have great moments and win big races!”

But, he acknowledges, there is more to life than cobbles. “I want to perform at high level in other classics, like the  Bretagne Classic Oest-France, which I won in 2019. I have experience in stage races and can be a good help for the GC riders and sprinters. In total I’ve done six Grand Tours: the Vuelta a Espana once and the Tour de France five times.”

The international flavor of ISN is also appealing to him. An Israeli team which is open to all and is a multi-national group. “Getting to know all these new people and cultures will be very exciting! I’m looking forward to that first trip to Israel!”

Another reason to be happy with the team is that “being able to sign a contract for three years shows that ISN believes in me. It gives me a lot of confidence!”

And he wants to pay that back. “My main objective is to win Tour of Flanders or Paris-Roubaix in the next years!”