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Two-year extension gives Vanmarcke boost ahead of Flanders

With a long-term deal in hand, Sep Vanmarcke and his EF team expect the Belgian will be a cool-headed threat at Tour of Flanders.

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Sep Vanmarcke will stay in the WorldTour’s lone pink kit until at least 2020.

EF Education First-Drapac manager Jonathan Vaughters hopes the security afforded by a contract extension can help push Vanmarcke over the hump in the classics, where he constantly battles to become more than a nearly man.

“Here’s the thing about Sep: He’s kind of a nervous character. He’s pretty high tension. And I think sometimes the reason that he ends up second or third place as opposed to winning is that he kind of overthinks the finals a little bit,” Vaughters told VeloNews.

“I’m hoping that this will kind of calm him down enough that he’ll be able to just go into those finals with a clear mindset. I mean he’s got to get to the final first, but if he gets there, he can risk it all right now because he doesn’t have anything to lose. If he was on a contract year, in the back of your head you’re like, ‘Well if I get third that’s pretty damn good.'”

The former pro was bullish on Vanmarcke’s skillset for the northern classics. He also said his personality — a “hard-working, family-oriented, small-town Flandrien” — was a big factor in the decision.

EF Education First-Drapac also announced a two-year contract extension for his Dutch compatriot Sebastian Langeveld on Friday ahead of the Tour of Flanders.

Vanmarcke affirmed that the contract signing was a boon to his confidence in the team’s pre-Flanders press conference, and outlined his reasons for renewing his deal with EF.

“When I started as a professional at Topsport in 2010, JV [Vaughters] immediately saw me and saw that I had qualities to fit in his team. From then on, he believed in me,” he said. “I’ve always felt that I like it [here] a lot. I know I’ve been with LottoNL-Jumbo for a couple of years but I was really happy to return to the team. I feel really comfortable here.”

Vanmarcke first signed with the Slipstream organization eight years ago, spending 2011 and 2012 with the then-Garmin team. He showed his potential with a victory at Omloop Het Nieuwblad during that stint before joining LottoNL-Jumbo, where he racked up podium finishes in Flanders and at Paris-Roubaix. He rejoined the Slipstream organization last season.

Sep Vanmarcke
Sep Vanmarcke’s win at 2012 Omloop set his expectations high for the Belgian at the spring classics. Photo: ©Tim De Waele | Getty Images

Roughly six months since the team’s near-dissolution, Jonathan Vaughters’s squad now finds itself on firm financial ground thanks to investment from new sponsor EF Education First. Vaughters said that this week’s contract extensions were part of a bigger process of building with the longer-term in mind.

“Honestly, since about 2012, every year’s just been a scramble to put things together,” he told VeloNews.

“It’s not like Education First is doing a Sky-sized budget, but what they are saying is, ‘We’re going to be in this a very long time, so let’s plan this out as the major branding initiative for the company for the foreseeable future.’

“That gives you a lot of ability to, as opposed to just going in and overpaying somebody for one or two years, you can actually say to them, ‘Listen, there’s long-term security here and we want to develop you from where you are as a rider right now to where we think your potential can be.'”

With all eyes on northern Europe for the sport’s biggest one-day races right now, Vaughters saw this as the perfect time to lock down the team’s top contender and road captain for the classics. As the season progresses, the argyle squad could make more waves in the transfer market.

While Vaughters said that there isn’t anything else in ink at the moment, he suggested other contract news may follow sooner or later: “There’s going to be a lot of interesting signings this year.”