As had been rumored, Sep Vanmarcke's transfer to what we once called Rabobank is official. Citing Lars Boom as a strong teammate and optimism about the chance of landing a permanent sponsor beyond the Rabo-funded 2013 season, Vanmarcke completed his move to a team where his classics chops will be greatly appreciated. Boom has become the team captain on the cobbles, thanks to his long-standing association with the Oranje and his steady improvement on the rough Flemish roads, and Boom shared his leadership role the last two years with another foreign import, Matti Breschel. But Breschel's time with Rabo was underwhelming, thanks to health issues, and while Boom bristled at sharing a role with the Dane, in the end it wasn't a problem.
I'm not seeing any Boom quotes yet, and it might take a bit of time, since he twittered recently about going on vacation. But the Vlijmen hardman should appreciate some help in the classics, albeit in the form of a very similar rider. Both Vanmarcke and Boom can get over the Flemish Ardennes climbs, and sprint a bit. Both have shown some aggression, though the edge there goes to Vanmarcke. In any event, the wide-open classics favor having multiple weapons above all else, and when you have two guys whom teams have to take very seriously, you're in good shape.
Everyone will take Vanmarcke seriously in 2013. His victory over Tom Boonen in this year's Omloop Het Nieuwsblad marked the only time anyone took on Boonen on the cobbles and won. Granted, the young Vanmarcke -- still just 24 -- got a bit ahead of his scheduled arrival with that result, and in the final analysis he tired a bit as the classics wore on, finding the power missing after 230km or so. But with another year in his legs, the Flemish cobbles prodigy should be better, and if the Rabo program can continue with another sponsor, Vanmarcke has found himself a good home. This is a program which, while shifting more toward the Tour de France and raising climbers faster than any other type of rider, is nonetheless a player every spring. Dutch fans of the team will travel to the Classics at a much greater rate than American fans of Garmin-Sharp did (lousy ocean), and while Sep seemed OK in his new team, there is no reason why he won't be at least as comfortable in a Dutch-speaking squad centered close to his West Flanders home.
As for the rest of the team, don't look for many changes in their classics lineup. Jetse Bol may graduate to the bigger races in 2013, and the rest of the team returns except for the very tidy Vanmarcke for Breschel swap.