Ok, so this makes me look like a massive bandwagon jumper, but I have followed Sep’s progress for a few years now. I can’t say with any truth that I followed his performances before he broke into the consciousness of cycling fans with his podium finish at Gent-Wevelgem in 2010, but from that point on, it was obvious he would be a big talent for the future.
Here are the final 10km of that race, with Sep riding for the Professional Continental team Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator. He launches an attack with 3km to go, before being brought back, before outsprinting the likes of Philippe Gilbert, George Hincapie and Daniel Oss to get 2nd place.
He started out at a club with rich history – KSV Deerlijk-Gavericht, once home to riders such as Briek Schotte, Patrick Lefevere, and Johan Bruyneel. In 2007 came a podium spot at the U23 Ronde Van Vlaanderen, coming 8th in 2008, and 5th in 2009. He also finished 2nd to Jonas Vangenechten in the tough amateur cobbled race Zellik-Galmaarden. Later that year, he signed his first professional contract with Topsport Vlaanderen at the age of 21. He begun 2010 with a 3rd place finish at Ronde van het Groen Hart in the west Netherlands, outsprining Graeme Brown and Kenny Van Hummel.
A week later, he followed this up with his great performance at Gent-Wevelgem. A top 10 placing at an Eneco Tour stage in Ronse was his best mid-season result, and later in the year he earned a top 10 at GP de Wallonie and a 15th place at Paris-Tours. In between those two races, he came a close second to Adam Blythe in the Circuit Franco-Belge overall classification.
Early last year, Vanmarcke impressed again, getting 4th place in E3 Prijs Vlaanderen – Harelbeke. The race is often a good indicator of form for the two cobbled monuments a few weeks later, with Andre Tchmil (1994), Johan Museeuw (1998), Peter Van Petegem (1999), Tom Boonen (2005, 2006), and Fabian Cancellara (2010) going on to win one of the ‘big ones’ after coming out on top at E3 Prijs in recent years.
Three weeks later, he rode his first ever Paris-Roubaix, finishing an impressive 20th and working on the front in order to help his new team Garmin-Cervélo win the race. Early on in this clip we can see him on the front of the Cancellara-Hushovd group before Fabian puts in an attack.
The rest of Vanmarcke’s 2011 was relatively quiet, missing May and June due to a knee injury. A 4th place finish in the sprint finish of the gruelling Vuelta’s penultimate stage being his standout personal result on his comeback. On stage 14 of that race he shared a frightening-looking over the railings accident with Karsten Kroon.
After 745km of racing over 5 days so far this year, he has got his breakthrough win, beating overwhelming favourite for the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad Tom Boonen, and perennial cobbled favourite Juan Antonio Flecha in a three-man sprint. Earlier in the race, he put in a strong attack to shed both remaining teammates of Flecha and Boonen. Here is footage of the final kilometre of today’s race.
In late 2010, Sep said in an interview with cyclingnews.com, “In the future I want to be a leader in the Classics. I’m only 22, so I know I will have to help sometimes, but I hope that will be in the finale of races. If I get an opportunity to ride for myself I will take it. I don’t have a problem supporting my teammates, but my goal is to become a leader.”
It looks like he is well on his way to his goal already. His two-year contract runs out at the end of this year, and Garmin-Barracuda will no doubt have a fight on their hands to keep him.