Sep Vanmarcke sprinted to third place at Dwars door Vlaanderen on Wednesday. With an acceleration on the Varentstraat cobbles, Vanmarcke created a five-rider selection from which the podium emerged.
Yves Lampaert (QuickStep-Floors) attacked in the final kilometer to win the new-look classic. Vanmarcke ran second in the four-up sprint to snag the final spot on the podium.
“For me, mentally, it doesn’t change a lot,” said Vanmarcke. “I knew last weekend I was good, but of course having a podium is always nice, always important for the team. Even though I didn’t have the best legs, it’s nice to be on the podium.”
The 180-kilometer WorldTour race featured 12 climbs and three cobbled sectors. Weather conditions were typically Belgian – cold, rainy and windy – from race start in Roeselare to race finish in Waregem. Despite relentless early attacks, no breakaway ever escaped the clutches of the peloton, which averaged a relentless 47 kilometers per hour during the first three hours of racing.
“Before the start of the race, someone was telling me it wasn’t going to be as hard as a normal 250-kilometer race,” said sport director Ken Vanmarcke. “It was a lot harder. Suddenly in the middle of the race, you had riders dropping like flies. It was because of the weather. The pace was so high because to stay warm, you race hard. You don’t feel that initially because of adrenaline, but when the adrenaline is gone, it hits you hard.”
Luke Rowe (Team Sky) managed to slip away on the first time up the Côte de Trieu with 80 kilometers remaining. He spent 20 kilometers alone off the front. The peloton overtook him on the second time up the Côte de Trieu. From there, it was a race of attrition.
“I was very cold during the race,” said Vanmarcke. “I suffered quite a bit with that, but I always seemed to be in the right move.”
With 44 kilometers remaining, EF Education First – Drapac p/b Cannondale had four riders in a group of around 40 riders. Attacks on the Kruisberg whittled down the bunch to only 11.
Tiesj Benoot (Lotto-Soudal) and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) opened up a gap the final time up Côte de Trieu. The chasers caught the pair before the Varentstraat, where Vanmarcke made his move.
“We had to work really well to stay off the front,” said Vanmarcke. “Once we had 45 seconds with five kilometers, we knew we were going to make it. Then it was gambling – attacking, waiting a little bit.”
Vanmarcke, Lampaert, Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimenson Data), Mike Teunissen (Sunweb) and Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) passed over the Nokereberg, the final climb of the race, with 49-seconds on the Van Avermaet-led chase of eight.
Coming off the Herlegemstraat, the final pavé sector, Vanmarcke twice attacked but was unable to gain any distance.
The leading quintet slowed to almost a standstill just beyond the flamme rouge. Lampaert was the first to jump.
“If you doubt for one second, he’s gone, and that’s what happened,” said Vanmarcke. “He made the right move.”
“Five guys. I’m only third. I wasn’t feeling on my top level today,” Vanmarcke noted. “The podium is good. When Yves jumped, I didn’t have much left.”
Vanmarcke tackled media duties before he climbed onto the podium. While he fielded plenty of questions about Wednesday’s race, many more looked towards De Ronde on Sunday.
“The guys that were at the front today will also be on the front on Sunday,” Vanmarcke projected. “Today I didn’t feel great. I had the worst feeling of the whole Classics period.
“I did some extra training on Sunday after Gent Wevelgem,” he added. “I really emptied the tank. I’m not fully recovered from that. I think in the end, next weekend, everybody will be ready, and I will also be fully recovered. It’s 70 kilometers longer, and it will be a different race.”