AFP / Yuzuru Sunada
Belgian Sep Vanmarcke said he is still trying to get used to his favorite tag ahead of Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix. The 25-year-old Belkin rider finished a shock second in this race last year and following a third place finish in the Tour of Flanders last Sunday, many have suggested he could be the man to end the Fabian Cancellara-Tom Boonen monopoly on success at the ‘Hell of the North’ race. But Vanmarcke himself, while feeling confident, says he still isn’t used to being mentioned in the same breath as the likes of three-time Paris-Roubaix winner Cancellara and record four-time champion Boonen.
“Last year I was second, this year I was third in the Tour of Flanders; I can’t keep fighting for podiums, I need to start fighting for wins and I won’t be happy with second for sure,” he said, before acknowledging he could understand why he was now seen as a favorite. “Because last weekend I was the only one to follow Cancellara on his attack (on the Kwaremont climb that decimated the leading pack), and for sure I won’t be in an early break (only riders with no hope of winning go off in an early break).
“For me it’s still strange to be talked (about) that I’m a favorite (but) it’s normal. I was close all year in all the classics and everybody sees I really ride well on cobbles. I feel comfortable and I know I’m (in) good (form).”
Vanmarcke’s consistency this season has been incredible in the Spring Classics. Last month he was third at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, fourth at both Het Nieuwsblad and Gent-Wevelgem, and fifth at E3 Harelbeke. Yet when asked who the favourite was, there was no hesitation in Vanmarcke’s reply.
“Fabian Cancellara proved last week that he’s really (in) good (form) and he will be ready again.”
But elsewhere in the peloton, his rivals believe that Vanmarcke is the most likely rider to dethrone Cancellara, the reigning champion, and Boonen, who have won between them seven of the last nine editions of Paris-Roubaix. Italian Filippo Pozzato, who was second at this race in 2009 and seventh a year later, says Vanmarcke is the main threat to the big two.
“Vanmarcke is doing really, really well. He showed it in Flanders. Last year he was at the front of Paris-Roubaix and fought for the win,” said the Lampre man. “He’s improving year after year and for sure can win it. But of course, with riders like Cancellara and Boonen, they’re experts. If they’re up front it’s difficult to beat them, but not impossible.”