The American team will hope to find out this Sunday at the Tour of Flanders.
“Today I had the worst feeling of the whole classics period,” Vanmarcke said after Dwars. “That’s just partly after the weekend, maybe I was not totally recovered. I still had some pain in my back, but that’s alright. I did some extra training Sunday after Gent-Wevelgem so I was really emptying the tank.”
Vanmarcke might have been aching out on the road form Roeselare to Waregem, but it wasn’t obvious from the way he rode or the result he netted. He stayed sharp as the peloton split into pieces multiple times in the driving rain. His attempts to get clear of his main rivals eventually bore fruit when he spurred the winning move of the day, bringing four other riders with him.
As has happened to the Vanmarcke in the past, the select lead group snuffed out his attacks in the finale, with Quick-Step’s Yves Lampaert taking his second consecutive Dwars win at the end of the day. Vanmarcke rounded out the podium in third behind Sunweb’s Mike Teunissen.
The final result wasn’t the elusive victory Vanmarcke has long sought in the classics, but he was unperturbed in post-race interviews. After all, he’s pleased with his form ahead of De Ronde, the race that matters most.
He was too busy refueling after a tough day — nibbling on a sandwich while chatting with media — to spend time second-guessing tactics.
“In the end, Lampaert made the right move at the right time. If you doubt for one second he’s gone, and that’s what happened,” he said.
Vanmarcke said he went into Dwars expecting a sprint finish, but the rain had other plans for the afternoon. The race got underway in nasty conditions on Wednesday and the weather only worsened as the day dragged on, making for an exciting spectacle.
It also gave the riders an opportunity for a final Ronde tune-up in classically classics conditions. Should cold, rainy weather shake up Flanders on Sunday — and it might — Vanmarcke will be ready.
“It was a short race today, only 180k. Everybody went full-gas. It was cold and the rain that made it feel a lot harder,” he said. “We don’t feel like we only raced four hours.
“In the end, the guys that were up there today will be in front on Sunday, but there will be many more guys.”
The most notable differences between the Dwars and Flanders’s start lists? Former Flanders winners Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors) and Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) skipped Dwars, but they will both be at De Ronde.
Their presence will surely shake up the racing on Sunday. Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing), who Vanmarcke said was looking very strong at Dwars, will be in the mix again as ever. So will younger guys like Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) and established veterans like Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates).
Nonetheless, Vanmarcke knows 2018 offers as good an opportunity as he’s had in recent years to add that big win to his palmares.
“It will change a bit next weekend with Sagan — everybody always looks at him — but still. Last year it was open racing and this year it’s even more,” he said. “The period where Boonen was really the best and everybody looked at him is gone. The period where Cancellara was the best and everybody looked at him is gone.”
What about the period where Vanmarcke is the best? EF hopes that starts now.