Paris-Roubaix: Sep Vanmarcke – “Second place feels so frustrating”


Young rider from Kortrijk (Belgium) almost snatches victory from Fabulous Fabian in Roubaix velodrome

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The usual script for a race that Fabian Cancellera wants to win is for him to soften his rival up with a few blows to the legs and then when the time is right, to apply the body blow with such force that no-one can ride with him and he solos to victory.


Not so in in the Hell of the North on Sunday. A young rider from Kortrijk (Belgium) Sep Vanmarcke was the only rider aside from Stybar who hit a spectator to resist the attacks from Cancellera and only the tactics of the Swiss legend saw him overpower the Belgian on the smooth track or Roubaix.

“I know that I should be very proud of this especially with my fall in Tirreno-Adriatico still etched on my mind” Sep Vanmarcke says. “Paris-Roubaix was actually the only race wherein I could still perform. To be honest, I had my doubts but the team stood behind me and I am very thankful for that.”

“The further we got into the race, I really started to believe I could win. I know I’m strong after a hard race.” The TV pictures showed Cancellera talking to Sep. So what did he say? He asked me a couple of times how I felt, and I think the only real answer I think anyone could give is ‘I’m f#?ked!”

Vanmarcke though was made of strong stuff and explained how he didn’t want to get dropped and the big aim for some one who has beaten Tom Boonen in a sprint was to get to the Roubaix velodrome. “The sprint was my only option” he says “as I knew I wasn’t going to be able to drop him.

“At the finish, I felt pretty good about my chances – after all, Cancellara is also human! I saw that he was also tired and he could not shake me in the last kilometres – that gave me an enormous boost. That’s why second place feels so frustrating – I don’t know if I’ll have another chance to win Paris-Roubaix. I just can’t fully appreciate what second means at this moment.”


Photo – Thomas van Bracht: Sep on the podium after coming so close to a historic win for the youngster.

In tears after the finish, Sep Vanmarcke even the next morning was saying on twitter “I think I raced smart, had some bad luck, didn’t make big mistakes, not even in the sprint. Cancellara was just a little bit stronger.”

Perhaps, but rivals to Cancellera will know that the opportunity to break him doesn’t come often and Vanmarcke did a lot of work on the road with Fabian when perhaps keeping something back may have been a better option. Cancellara and Vanmarcke played the cat and mouse on the velodrome where on the bankings, a slip of tyre could have been costly.

Resisting an attempt from Fabian to shake him with five kilometres to go, Sep shared the lead with the Swiss favorite right upto the banked turns of the Velodrome in Roubaix. It was there that he lost the race as he admits “After watching the race again, a short night, and 1000 new sprints in my head, I still lost Paris-Roubaix yesterday. I can’t change it.”

He is young though and who knows, his chance to win the biggest one day bike race in the world may still come ….



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