Classics Q and A: Vanmarcke, Klier, Vanmarcke and Van Baarle
24th March 2017
E3-Harelbeke and Gent-Wevelgem loom over the classics teams now, and just further in the distance are the cobbled monuments of Flanders and Roubaix. There are no such things as tune-up races in the spring anymore — those who fare well over the next two races declare warnings for the Monuments to come.
Cannondale-Drapac sends a talented roster into the opening weekend of cobbled racing in Flanders, one that’s all in for captain Sep Vanmarcke. Here, find interviews with some of our key classics players in Sep Vanmarcke and Dylan Van Baarle and directors Andreas Klier and Ken Vanmarcke.
First off, how are you doing after that crash at Strade?
I'm fine. The ribs are not yet totally okay, but since this weekend I felt they’re improving. Doctors say I won't damage it more with racing, so that's good to know. I want to focus on the race, not on the pain.
What do you make of these next two races? What’s an important thing to look out for?
Both in E3 and Gent-Wevelgem I've had several top five results, so they suit me well. But both are different races. E3 has more hills. Gent Wevelgem has the wind playing a key role. But both races I like. In both there is a very high level because the top of the classics riders are at the start with their best form. In both races it's really important to have good position at the right moments. There are many important sections, so there are many fights for position.
How’s the team feeling to you?
After the opening weekend, we had a good view on everything and everybody, so we could work from there. We are developing how to make it perfect. I'm sure we will do well as a group here. Everybody has a good condition and really wants to do his work well.
ANDREAS KLIER, DS
What do we have to watch for in E3 and Gent? What makes these races special, or unique?
First of all, is it the weather which has made Gent-Wevelgem very special over the last few years. Because of the fact that there is a very exposed area where the race takes place, very often the first decision will happen before you actually enter the key sections around the Kemmelberg. About E3, I can say that over the last years that race has been a "small brother" of the Ronde and the results of that race show that I am right. If you are able to be top three there, then you are absolutely also competitive for the upcoming races.
How is the cobbles team doing right now?
They’re doing fine and are all on track. Our key riders where able to compete in Tirreno or Paris-Nice, and none of them had any big problems considering the build toward peak performance for the northern classics.
Do we go in with a plan to support Sep 100 percent in these earlier classics or will there be opportunity for others?
We will always support Sep 100 percent from the very first race until the last northern classic. Out of that sort of plan, very often you create moment where you can play another card. If this would be the case and we have a rider who could play a key role in the deep final of a race without having any negative influence on Sep's mission, then of course we will do that.
DYLAN VAN BAARLE
How are you feeling heading into the big spring campaign?
The condition after Tirreno gets better and better. In Omloop and Strade Bianche, I crashed and hit my knee really bad. So after Omloop, I couldn't train properly. I suffered a lot in the Tirreno but came out stronger.
What do these races mean to you?
The cobbles are always special to me. Every year I'm looking forward to those races. E3 is like a mini tour of Flanders. And with Gent-Wevelgen I have a love/hate relationship. DNF for the last 2 years. So hope I can go there now for a nice result. We have a really strong leader in Sep. He is able to follow Sagan and Van Avermaet on the climbs. For me personally, I have to be in front when Sep starts his engine. As a team we have the strongest team since I've been here. So I'm really looking forward to this week’s racing.
Ken Vanmarcke, DS
How is the cobbled team doing right now?
We have a mixed team of experienced riders and young riders. With the help of the young riders, who are very motivated to learn and support leaders, we hope to animate the finishes.
Since you know this area so well...What's interesting about E3? What do we have to watch for?
E3 is the only race that uses different roads towards the [more famous] climbs. That’s why road-knowledge is even more important here. They call E3 the mini Tour of Flanders, as it is very close to the level of Flanders. Every year it’s extremely nervous towards Taaienberg, which always splits the bunch. In the final we have 3 hills, Paterberg, Oude Kwaremont, and Karnemelkbeekstraat, which decides the leading group.
And about Gent-Wevelgem?
There are several things that makes this race very interesting. We always have to deal with wind, which makes the race very nervous all day. Than we also have the Kemmelberg, which is a hard hill with no ideal line to ride, and everybody wants to be in front at the base of it. And since this year we have three off-road sections, we don’t know what we can expect there.
How important are these races coming up? Do we try for a result now, or build to Flanders?
All races are WorldTour class, so there is no doubt we want to score in all three races. In modern cycling, there are no ‘build up' races anymore. As it is so hard to win, you always have to aim for victory.