Luck has not been on the side of Israel Start-Up Nation in this year’s Vuelta a España. Three riders crashed out in the first week and on stage 16, team leader Sep Vanmarcke also had to abandon after suffering his fourth crash in the race.
As team leader and road captain, Vanmarcke has been somewhat of a mentor for the remaining riders during the last weeks of racing. The experienced Belgian is always quick to give his teammates a confidence boost when needed and keep the team morale high at all time. Even when he’s the one suffering from crashes.
Vanmarcke’s presence and optimism will be missed on the bus during the final stages of the Vuelta but the riders are determined not to lose morale and continue to fight, honoring the spirit of their team leader.
“It’s really a disappointment to lose Sep. He’s been so unlucky in this race. He was our leader, our road captain and the one we all follow. He has really been the fighting spirit of the team. All we can do now is to try to do our best with the riders we have left here – and also ride for Sep. He really deserved better luck and we all hope to see him back racing soon,” said Israeli climber Guy Niv.
Naturally, Vanmarcke is far from thrilled to leave the Vuelta like this, but he has no doubts that his teammates will continue to give it their all in the last week of racing.
“There are only four stages and a time trial left. The climbers will have good chances to shine. I know that everybody will fight as much and as hard as possible. We have not been lucky in this Vuelta, but the guys still have a few days to turn it around. We only have half of the team left but they are the strong guys!” Vanmarcke explains.
Looking ahead, Vanmarcke hopes the injuries he has sustained won’t keep him from targeting success in the upcoming classics. “Paris-Roubaix is coming soon, and I’ve got my eyes on that one. I really hope I can recovery fast enough,” he said.
The first opportunity for the ISN riders to get in the mix and show off the team colors comes today as the Vuelta once again has mountains on the menu. In fact, the following four days all offer good chances for the guys to get a result. It won’t be easy, but the riders will give it their best shot every single day!