Sep Vanmarcke says he is feeling confident with where his condition is at this point of the season, as begins his 2015 Classics campaign with semi-classic Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday.
The Belgian won his home race in 2012 and since then has gone on to be a leading Classics contender, with runner-up finishes in both the cobbled monuments, Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.
>> Get an extra 5% off the discounted price of a magazine subscription this weekend with the code SPOOKY5. Enjoy the luxury of home delivery and never miss an issue <<
Vanmarcke began his season earlier in February at the Volta ao Algarve, won by Geraint Thomas, and having been out to recon the Het Nieuwsblad course, feels he is fit and ready to challenge the likes of Ian Stannard and Greg van Avermaet who will also be vying for the win.
“I’m okay for the opening weekend,” Vanmarcke told the press on Friday. “I came out with a good feeling from the Tour of Algarve.
“My weight has increased three kilograms; muscle mass that is, my fat content is still the same. I’ll know Saturday night though if this will help me to perform better in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.”
Coming in February, Het Nieuwsblad is often blighted by cold and rain which can whittle down the number of riders in contention for victory. And while Vanmarcke feels he can prosper in the adverse conditions, the LottoNL-Jumbo rider was relcutant to name any favourites for the race.
“I’m not going to mention a favourite. It’s up to the media to determine,” he said. “[But] I want to take a step forward again this season.
“The weather forecast? Rain and cold make the course harder…[but] I can ride well in the rain and wind. More difficult the better for me.
“I am 26-years-old, if [I don’t win] now, then I can still take a while. The condition is good, I have self-confidence, in short I’m ready for sure.”