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Inside Sep Vanmarcke’s Spring Classics bike setup

Sep Vanmarcke reveals the equipment he uses in what he calls the most honest races in cycling; the Spring Classics.

Counting every stone in the Spring Classics

The Spring Classics are the ultimate individual tests in cycling. Just ask twenty-seven year old Shimano-sponsored elite professional rider Sep Vanmarcke (LottoNL-Jumbo). He calls the Spring Classics “The most beautiful races of the year. An open style of racing. Full gas to the end. Honest races.”

The Classics are held on Europe’s toughest racecourses. Long events, like the 290-kilometer Milan-San Remo, are signatures of the monuments of cycling. As is temperamental weather. But nothing is more iconic of the season than the narrow, deadly-when-wet cobblestone farm-roads showcased in races like the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.

What can look powerful and smooth on a television screen is actually a violent, bone-jarring, bike-wrenching torture. “Cobblestones are really rough to ride on,” says Vanmarcke. “Your body shakes so hard that it makes you really really tired.” So hard in fact, that on many cobblestone sections, he feels like “You can count every stone.”

Is your bike tough enough for the Hell of the North?

These treacherous roads are especially hard on equipment. Riders and mechanics must be strategic about their equipment choices. Luckily, Vanmarcke’s Team LottoNL-Jumbo mechanic, Vincent Hendriks, is a long-time Shimano specialist and is responsible for setting up his bikes for the Classics. “Sep is very particular and precise about his equipment,” Hendriks says. “He chooses every modification we make for these big races.”

Dialling in Sep Vanmarcke’s Spring Classics Di2 setup

What is Sep Vanmarcke’s perfect setup on either his Bianchi Oltre (used for most classics) or his Bianchi Infinito (his choice for Paris-Roubaix)? Besides choosing the right tire-width (“28mm when it’s dry, 30mm for a wet Paris-Roubaix,” says Hendriks), Hendriks partners with Shimano to dial in the drivetrain.

Gearing? “Depends on the race,” Hendriks says. “At Flanders, Sep will ride with a 53/39 in front and an 11–25 cassette. For Paris-Roubaix, which is flat and very fast so he doesn’t need the smaller gears, we install a 44-tooth chainring on the inside of the crank and an 11-23 cassette.”

Vanmarcke has everything from the Shimano family of products to choose from but Hendriks was clear. “We only use Di2 now. When I started as a mechanic seventeen years ago, we used Shimano mechanical drivetrains. Since they introduced Di2, we’ve switched full time. Even for the Classics.”

“Shimano Di2 is really good,” says Vanmarcke. “It’s already two years that we’ve been riding with it. It always works perfectly. And has some little extras that are really really welcome.”

Di2 Sprint shifters for control on demand

Hendriks installs one of those extras on Vanmarcke’s Classics bikes - Shimano Di2 push-button ‘Sprint’ shifters. “With the Sprint shifter, you shift up or down with a little button that you place on the inside of the handlebar,” Hendriks explained. “For Sep, I’ll put a second set on the tops of the bars.”

Photography: Wouter Roosenboom & Cor Vos

This customized solution was designed with Shimano’s help. “We have a very good relationship with Shimano,” Hendriks says. “They are always at the big races, always helping us find the best solutions.”

Vanmarcke’s ambition for the 2016 Classics campaign

With his bike setup dialed in, Vanmarcke is optimistic about this year’s Classics. “Hopefully,” he says, “we can win one race pretty quickly and it will be a relief for everybody. We just need some luck, and to stay healthy.”

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