Cobbled-classic specialist Sep Vanmarcke will join the Cannondale-Drapac Pro Cycling Team at the start of the 2017 season, bolstering the team’s presence in the northern classics.
The move is a homecoming of sorts for the 28-year-old Belgian. Vanmarcke’s start on the WorldTour level came with Garmin-Cervélo in 2011, and he rode for the Garmin-Sharp and Garmin-Barracuda teams through 2012. He then spent two seasons with the Belkin franchise followed by two seasons with LottoNL-Jumbo.
Vanmarcke has been a model of consistency in the spring classics. He won Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in argyle in 2012, finished second at Paris-Roubaix in 2013, was second on two occasions at Gent-Wevelgem, twice third at Flanders and twice fourth at Paris-Roubaix.
“I’ve always kept a special feeling for the team, because I started my career in the WorldTour as part of the Slipstream organization,” said Vanmarcke. “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,” Vanmarcke continued. “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.”
Since he left the Slipstream Sports team at the end of the 2012 season, Vanmarcke has gotten stronger and gained leadership ability. He now brings that complete package back to the Cannondale-Drapac family.
“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,” Vanmarcke said.
Director Andreas Klier rode with Vanmarcke and will now serve as one of his directors in the cobbled races.
“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.”
For Slipstream Sports CEO Jonathan Vaughters, it’s a chance to welcome back a rider he’s always liked and admired.
“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,” Vaughters said. “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.”