The peloton returns to the pave over the coming days in Belgium with E3 Harelbeke taking place on Friday and Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday.

The EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale team sends a strong roster to these races, with the aim of supporting Sep Vanmarcke who has already shown his form this season with a strong ride for third place at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

Joining Vanmarcke at E3 are Matti Breschel, Mitch Docker, Sebastian Langeveld, Taylor Phinney, Tom Scully, and Tom Van Asbroeck. Sunday’s Gent-Wevelgem sees a slight change, as Sacha Modolo and Dan McLay replace Docker and Van Asbroeck.

“E3 is a hard and honest race,” said Vanmarcke. “The many hills on a short period make it very hard. The distance from those sections until the finish is still 30-40km, so it’s not easy for attacking on the hills and staying in front. That’s where it gets interesting for sprinters as well. If they can survive, they still have a chance to come back.

“It’s one week before the Tour of Flanders, so you have to be strong in E3,” Vanmarcke added. “The opening weekend was good. Everybody did his job. There is always space for improving, but also, the condition of everybody should be on its best by now, so that should give the extra we need.”

Vanmarcke recently raced Tirreno-Adriatico and he’s spent the last week at home in Anzegem, a few kilometres from the Tour of Flanders course.

“I had a week of recovery and specific training,” said Vanmarcke. “I should be on a good level again.”

“These races are the most beautiful and interesting races of the year for me,” Vanmarcke said. “Hard, honest, history, drama, and of course — cobbles, which suit me very well. I already have a lot of experience, so I know how to go into the races. For sure, I’m always very excited, but I’m not nervous anymore. Years ago, I sure was. Now it’s just some good tension and focus.”

The races offer another chance for the updated classics squad to ride together ahead of the upcoming monuments and for directors to see how the team is riding together.

“In my opinion we did well at Omloop. But of course, you can always do better if you didn’t win. However, the step from how we performed to get a victory isn’t that big anymore,” sport director Andreas Klier said. “Therefore we will start with the same motivation into the northern classic campaign as we did at Omloop and Kuurne. Obviously, Sep is in good shape and we will see how those races develop. We shouldn’t forget that we have Sacha as a backup, and therefore we are not forced to make an early decision. Let’s see what influence the races, the circuit and the weather will have on tactics.”

Tom Scully enters his second cobbled campaign with the team. In one short year, he’s gone from a new rider to one of Vanmarcke’s trusted cobblestone lieutenants.

“I’m looking at it much the same as last year: eyes wide open and writing the important bits down. I don’t have to look far to find a truckload of experience around me that I can tap into, so I find this is a settling environment,” Scully said.

“Already at opening weekend, I’m remembering key moments in the parcours and how our leaders want to be positioned and when. My role is to be there for our leaders, to support them as deep into the race as possible. It feels pretty powerful, looking around the bus, pinning race the numbers on with this classics team. You know the guys beside you and the whole organization behind us riders has worked so hard. Each one of us have a job to do during the race and each of those jobs is crucial for the success of the team. That’s motivating stuff.”

EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale for 2018 E3 Harelbeke:
Matti Breschel (DEN)
Mitch Docker (AUS)
Sebastian Langeveld (NED)
Taylor Phinney (USA)
Tom Scully (NZL)
Tom Van Asbroeck (BEL)
Sep Vanmarcke (BEL)

EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale for 2018 Gent-Wevelgem
Matti Breschel (DEN)
Dan McLay (GBR)
Sacha Modolo (ITA)
Sebastian Langeveld (BEL)
Taylor Phinney (USA)
Tom Scully (NZL)
Sep Vanmarcke (BEL)


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