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Spring Classic in Autumn: Vanmarcke leads ISN in a postponed edition of Paris-Roubaix

Sep Vanmarcke will be ISN’s first pick in Paris-Roubaix, next Sunday, the third of October. Together with the Belgian cobbles specialist, we are looking ahead to one of the biggest and hardest classics in professional cycling.

It will be the team’s very first Paris-Roubaix.

Normally, Paris-Roubaix is the final highlight of a series of cobbled classics early in the season. This year, however, it is rather ‘lonely’ on the calendar, being held on October 3rd, making Paris-Roubaix an Autumn instead of a Spring Classic.

Sep Vanmarcke, therefore, expects an interesting edition of the highly anticipated race. “Normally, this race is the last cobbled classic after a long period of Spring Classics, but now it is on its own, at the end of the cycling calendar. That will feature different racing. Some riders might already be looking forward to off-season after a long period of racing, while others might be even stronger than they normally are in spring.”

Vuelta Espana 2021 – 76th Edition – 16th stage Laredo – Santa Cruz de Bezana 180 km – 31/08/2021 – Sep Vanmarcke (BEL – Israel Start-Up Nation) – photo Luis Angel Gomez/BettiniPhoto©2021

Then, there’s the weather forecast. It might very well be raining in the north of France next Sunday. The experienced Classic specialist Vanmarcke knows that racing on cobbles in the rain is a different discipline than racing on cobbles in the sun. “It could the first Paris-Roubaix in rainy conditions in a long time, since 2002 if I remember correctly”, Vanmarcke says.

It would be the first, rainy edition of the classic for most of the peloton, including Vanmarcke. “I have raced on cobbles in wet conditions before, but not Paris-Roubaix. Indeed, things get more slippery, technical, and treacherous.”

Rain or no rain, Israel Start-Up Nation did showcase, in the last few one-day races, that it is ready for Paris-Roubaix. “We finished multiple times in the top-10 with different riders in races that can be seen as a warm-up to Paris-Roubaix. That will definitely give us confidence towards Sunday,” says the Belgian.

He continues: “Apart from having a good line-up for this race, the Factor bike is ready, too. We did some recon rides last week on the course, and I tested out some of our material. I know which Maxxis tires I want to run and how much pressure is comfortable on the cobbles.”

Sports Director Dirk Demol, who won Paris-Roubaix in 1988, will cover the 257-kilometer race by car, directing the team over the cobbled sections. He says that doing the recon last week gave the team a lot of information. “Definitely material-wise, as Sep explained, but also about the condition of the sectors. Some of them have moss and grass in between the cobbles, which make them extra slippery. The farmers have already started harvesting their fields, meaning that there are sectors with mud on them.”

“I speak from experience”, he continues, “when it is wet, and now especially in this part of the season, it is going to be very treacherous. I did Paris-Roubaix in wet conditions, and it is another kind of race.”

Israel Start-Up Nation’s line-up for Paris-Roubaix (03/10):

  • Rudy Barbier
  • Hugo Hofstetter
  • Jenthe Biermans
  • Tom Van Asbroeck
  • Sep Vanmarcke
  • Guillaume Boivin
  • Mads Würtz Schmidt

— Sjors Beukeboom to israelcyclingacademy.com

Team leader Vanmarcke is out but ISN fights on in his spirit

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.

Sep Vanmarcke and the remaining ISN riders at dinner after the chaotic stage 16 of Vuelta a España.

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!

Sep Vanmarcke taped up with SpiderTech to get through the first two weeks of racing despite several crashes.

— Mikkel to israelcyclingacademy.com

Barbier sprints to third, Vanmarcke second in GC after stage 3 Settimana

The party in the third stage of the Settimana Ciclistica Italiana started over halfway into the stage.

The reason? The wind.

Israeli riders Guy Niv and Guy Sagiv played a vital role on the windy battlefield. They were among the team members that sprinter Barbier and GC competitors Ben Hermans and Sep Vanmarcke relied on.

Settimana Ciclistica Italiana 2021 – 1st Edition – 3rd stage 3rd stage Oristano – Cagliari 180,9 km – 16/07/2021 – Pascal Ackermann (GER – Bora – Hansgrohe) – Rudy Barbier (FRA – Israel Start-Up Nation) – Elia Viviani (ITA – Cofidis) – photo Tommaso Pelagalli/BettiniPhoto©2021

Over the team radio, Israeli sports director Dror Pekatch encouraged his pupils to give it a go in the final 20 kilometers. They did, and their efforts resulted in echelons.

Barbier was in the front, and so were ISN’s GC riders. The French sprinter found himself in a good position to launch his final effort, finishing third.

After the finish, he said that the team raced very attentively and took the initiative when it mattered. “We were together in the front, and that resulted in a good day for us. I am happy that I podiumed, and that Sep moved up a spot.”

The previous number two in the general classification missed the cut and is out of contention, moving Vanmarcke up a notch.

ISN is now also the leader in the team classification.

Settimana Ciclistica Italiana 2021 – 1st Edition – 3rd stage 3rd stage Oristano – Cagliari 180,9 km – 16/07/2021 – Jonathan Milan (ITA – Bahrain Victorious) – Pascal Ackermann (GER – Bora – Hansgrohe) – Rudy Barbier (FRA – Israel Start-Up Nation) – Elia Viviani (ITA – Cofidis) – photo Tommaso Pelagalli/BettiniPhoto©2021

ISN’s GC ambitions for Settimana are more alive than ever. Tomorrow is an important day to work on those ambitions with Ben Hermans and Sep Vanmarcke. As Vanmarcke moved up a spot, he’s only six seconds away from taking the overall victory.

It wasn’t particularly Sebastian Berwick’s day. He suffered a crash, a change of wheels and a bike change, but came back to the bunch and carried out his job sufficiently afterwards.

— Sjors Beukeboom to israelcyclingacademy.com