Israel Start-Up Nation came close to another podium spot as Sep Vanmarcke finished fourth in Le Samyn – just in front of Hugo Hofstetter, who won the race last year.
Unlike in the recent Belgian one-day races, it took quite a while before a breakaway managed to get clear of the peloton. This meant that the gap never grew too big, and with 60 km to go the pack split up as a rather large group got off the front.
Vanmarcke was quick to join the move, which allowed his teammates to sit back and let the other teams do the chasing. As the two big groups were about to merge, Vanmarcke launched another attack. This time, however, the peloton reacted right away, bringing back our strong Belgian who was clearly on a good day today.
Unfortunately, with just under 15 km to go, Vanmarcke suffered a puncture and had to stop and change bikes. It seemed like the end of his race, but after furious chase he managed to re-join the front group as the race entered the final five kilometers.
In a hectic final, several riders tried to break away and when two of the pre-race favorites moved clear on the last pave section, Vanmarcke – once again – accelerated to join the dangerous move.
However, with just one kilometer left to go, it all came back together again. Vanmarcke was still near the front and despite running empty after his previous enormous efforts, he managed to hold on for fourth place. Hofstetter finished right behind him, making it two ISN riders in top-5 on the day. Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix) took the win.
Sep Vanmarcke: “On the last lap, I wanted to attack on one of the cobbles sections but unfortunately, I punctured and had to change bikes. I managed to get back to the group and in the deep final, I saw Senechal and Van der Poel attacking on the last cobbles section. It took a little while before I could pass everybody and bridge across but I got up there.
Then, I gambled a little bit on the last two kilometers and unfortunately, the peloton came back. I started sprinting from far out just to get the maximum out of it and at the end, that was a fourth place today. It was a good result but I’m also disappointed as I feel that I could have done a better result if everything had gone my way.
However, I’m happy that the level is a good again. In Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne my body wasn’t feeling good after the crash the day before. Our osteopath, Elvi, did a really good job the last two days and yesterday evening, he told me that I was ready again and that I should be going well today. He was right. The legs were good and that’s great for the confidence looking ahead”.