GENT, Belgium (VN) — Cannondale-Drapac is hoping for a miracle Sunday at the Tour of Flanders. With its star rider Sep Vanmarcke hampered by stomach problems and a crash in his run-up to Sunday’s Ronde van Vlaanderen, the team is realistic ahead of the Belgian classic.
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“I’ve done everything I can, together with a medical team, to be ready,” Vanmarcke said Thursday. “It’s gotten better and I’m happy with that. We’ll have to wait until Sunday to see if the throwing up will come back or not, if I’m strong enough.”
If he is “strong enough,” the big, burly Vanmarcke hopes to be more than a factor Sunday. He opened his classics season with third at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, but a stomach bug and a crash sidelined him for last weekend’s Gent-Wevelgem. Twice third over the past three years at the Ronde, Vanmarcke seems born to bash the cobbles of Flanders country.
“I’m a Flemish guy from here,” Vanmarcke said. “It’s even more important and bigger for me than most people.”
The team is focused on supporting Vanmarcke, who will see solid backing from Sebastian Langeveld, Ryan Mullen, Tom Scully, and Tom Van Asbroeck. Dylan Van Baarle (top-10s at both Dwars door Vlaanderen and E3-Harelbeke), Taylor Phinney, and Alberto Bettiol (10th at Harelbeke) will be ready if Vanmarcke is not feeling up for the fight.
“The whole group is devoted to giving Sep the best chance to succeed,” said sport director Andreas Klier. “The plan is to protect Sep, to keep him in the right place and the right time as much as we can.”
Phinney is making his classics debut in the Cannondale-Drapac jersey, with his spring campaign hampered by a minor knee injury.
“I haven’t done any classics this year because of my leg, because of a small re-injury,” said Phinney. “It’s nice to go into Flanders completely fresh mentally and not scarred by any of the previous classics. It’s a long stretch when you do the whole thing starting in Omloop, which was right when I had my little incident … I have to do something almost every day to make sure my body responds the way I want it to, that my knee is working properly. Everything is getting better. The whole system is responding.”