Can Sep Vanmarcke win the Tour of Flanders? Maybe the question should be ‘how can Sep Vanmarcke win the Tour of Flanders?’.

It doesn’t require the keenest of eyes to see the EF Education First-Drapac rider’s strength on the cobbles, but what’s more difficult to envisage is a situation in which he wins De Ronde on Sunday. That’s largely due to the Belgian’s sprint, with which he has a poor track record.

Twice at Paris-Roubaix and once at the Tour of Flanders he has missed out on victory in a small group sprint, and it has happened at other smaller races, too. With Vanmarcke, you get the sense that if he’s going to win, it would have to be alone, and for that to happen many stars would have to align.


Vanmarcke, however, defended his sprint in his pre-Flanders press conference on Friday, where it was announced he’d signed a new two-year contract with EF-Drapac.

“Since last year I worked a lot on my sprint, especially in the summer also,” he said. “This year, Wednesday was actually the only time I could do a sprint in a finale. Gent-Wevelgem was different, Omloop I finished alone. So Wednesday was the first time for a real sprint, but that was after 180km… In the past, I figured out that after 250km I can be pretty fast.

“It was always never enough to win, but always to be second and third,” he added, though he hadn’t forgotten about the one piece of evidence that flies against the rest: the 2012 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Arriving in the final few hundred metres in a three-man group, few would have fancied him over seasoned sprinter Tom Boonen, but he waited for his compatriot to open the sprint before jumping on his wheel and coming around him resoundingly.

A solid but unspectacular spring so far

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