Sep Vanmarcke was truly unlucky today in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Team LottoNL-Jumbo’s Belgian powerhouse was hit by bad luck at crucial moments during the race, which ruined his chances to win. Thanks to some extraordinary efforts, he still managed to finish inside the top ten. The 26-year old, who won the 2012 edition, was the fifth to cross the line in Ghent. Team Sky’s Ian Stannard won for the second year in a row.
“I don’t race to be the best man in the race, I always aim to win,” Vanmarcke said. “The team kept me out of the wind all day, but after my punctures I knew it was going to be very difficult. I fought until the very end for my teammates and the fans along the side of the road, but unfortunately, it was not enough.”
Vanmarcke flatted for the first time with sixty kilometres to go, just before the Taaienberg. All by himself, he managed to return to the first group, but after he personally split up the peloton in Haaghoek, things went south yet again: another puncture.
A group of four took full advantage. The Etixx-QuickStep trio, consisting of Tom Boonen, Niki Terpstra and Stijn Vandenbergh, took the lead with Stannard. Vanmarcke, Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) and Zdenek Stybar (Etixx-QuickStep) chased the quartet for forty kilometres. Vanmarcke fought for what he was worth, but the gap was never smaller than 16 seconds.
"Ahead of the Taaienberg I was exactly where I wanted to be, but with a few hundred meters to go to the foot, I flatted. Maarten Wynants gave me his wheel and told me I still had a chance. Thanks to an adrenaline boost I was able to return to the front.
“I knew at that point that I had to make it a hard race, for tactical reasons. Unfortunately I punctured again and Etixx-QuickStep and Stannard benefited from this. We were one man short in the chase, otherwise we could have bridged to the leaders.”
Nico Verhoeven sat irritated behind the wheel of the team car during the last forty kilometres. “It was very frustrating that Sep was struck by bad luck during crucial moments,” the Sports Director said afterwards.
“Sep fought back and let the race explode after his first puncture, but a new one prevented him from getting in the break. He fought like a lion, but unfortunately it was not in the cards for us today.”
Vanmarcke looks ahead to the upcoming races with confidence after his fifth place. “It is clear that I’m in good shape. I have to keep working like I’m doing right now.”