Two riders who made early splashes. Can they become true Flandrien heavyweights?
#5 Sep Vanmarcke
Cobbles Credentials: Just 24 still, Sep IMO hasn't found his groove yet but the talent is obviously there. That win last year at Het Niewsblad was no fluke and he followed that up with a 7th at DdV and 5th at E3. Yeah he had a very good 2012.
He also had a nice 2010 with 2nd at G-W and 3rd at the Green Heart. 2011 wasn't quite as successful but still promising with a 4th at E3 and 20th (his best placing so far) at the Ronde.
Now...he's on Blanco and so far he is making Nick Nuyens' tenure at Rabobank look really solid. There's a 74th at the Omloop, a 51st at E3 and a DNF at G-W. Please please PLEASE next offseason get as far away from the Rabolanco brain trust as possible Sep! Maybe Orica-GreenEDGE?
#12 Jens Keukeleire
Cobbles Credentials: Made a spectacular debut in 2010 winning in succession Le Samyn, Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen, and Nokere Korese. Hasn't really followed up that opening but has been slowly improving with a promising 7th at Dwars door Vlaanderen last week. The only Belgian on Orica-GreenEDGE, he's got a team behind him as opposed to doing domestique work for others. That can be both good or bad on the narrow Belgian cobbles of course. But he's only 24 folks, younger than Sep by a few months. Good things are coming here...the needle is pointing north...
Final thought. As Americans can probably tell, out 64 rider face-off here is a nod towards March Madness. People who follow college basketball and the NCAA tournament know that the opening round 5-12 matchups are always good for at least 1 upset.