News: Quickstep to Strade Bianche & Paris Nice

Busy weekend ahead for the WorldTour pros with Strade Bianche & Paris Nice – Alaphilippe & Stybar head Quickstep’s teams for Strade Bianche, Gilbert & Jungels lead Quickstep at Paris-Nice

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News: Quickstep to Strade Bianche & Paris Nice

Julian Alaphilippe and Zdenek Stybar will lead the line for the team at Saturday’s race, the 13th Strade Bianche

Pic: Getty Images

Famous for its up and down dirt roads, punchy hills, picturesque landscapes and one of the most stunning finish venues in the sport, Strade Bianche has turned into an instant classic ever since its inception, despite being one of the newest races on the block. With a terrain mixing gravel sectors and undulating roads, the Italian one-day race showed that it’s open to both Classics specialists and climbers, going down every year as one of the finest and most spectacular events of the season.

The fifth World Tour appointment of the calendar in 2019, Strade Bianche will see the peloton set out on Saturday morning from the Tuscan city and head into the charming countryside for a 184km-long twisty and undulating route that includes 11 gravel sectors – many of which have double-digit gradients – totalling 62 kilometers.

After leaving all the sterrate segments behind, the riders will have to overcome one final hurdle, the steep urban climb pitching up to 16% on the Via Santa Caterina, which will take them to the shell-shaped Piazza del Campo, one of Europe’s greatest medieval squares, renowned for hosting the Palio since the Middle Ages.

Having amassed a hat-trick of wins so far this year in the southern hemisphere, Julian Alaphilippe is ready to make his first outing of the season in Europe, at an event he has never raced before: “I am very happy with the way my season started, with three victories in Argentina and Colombia. My condition is good and I can’t wait to be in action in Italy. It will be my first time in Strade Bianche, a race I have always followed on TV, and at the start of which I am glad I will be this year. The motivation and moral are there and I hope it will turn out to be a good race for me.”

Pic: Getty Images

Victorious in Siena four years ago, at his very debut, Zdenek Stybar has always finished in the top 10 at Strade Bianche, and the experienced Czech, now an Omloop Het Nieuwsblad champion, will look to be again in the mix, part of a strong Deceuninck – Quick-Step team which will include also Eros Capecchi, Dries Devenyns, Belgian Champion Yves Lampaert, Pieter Serry, who was ninth at the previous edition, when the snow and rain ended up playing a huge role in the outcome, and Petr Vakoc.

“It’s our first outing of the season in Italy, a race which has grown in stature and has become everyone’s favourite. We won here twice and are motivated to be again in contention. If you look over the team, you can see how solid it is, with many riders capable of making the difference and being there in the key moments of the race. Following last week’s results, we carry a bulletproof confidence into the race and hope to do well again”, said sports director Davide Bramati.
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Deceuninck – Quick-Step to Paris-Nice
Philippe Gilbert and Bob Jungels will be in action next week at the first big stage race of the season (10-17 March)

Located in the western suburbs of Paris, some 19 kilometers from the center of France’s capital, Saint-Germain-en-Laye will become the tenth town in the Yvelines department to kick off Paris-Nice, on Sunday, when the riders will head out for a 138.5km-long route which should end in a mass gallop. Over the next two days, in Bellegarde and Moulins, the fast men will get two more opportunities, before the terrain will tilt toward the puncheurs in Pélussin, where four climbs jammed in the last 60 kilometers are guaranteed to make things more interesting.

Barbentane, a town which in the Middle Ages was invaded by a plethora of Germanic tribes, will play host to a 25.5km individual time trial held on lumpy roads which should seriously reshuffle the general classification ahead of the final three days, which include a trek to Brignoles, where the baroudeurs will hope to shine, and two mountain stages. The first of these will take the peloton atop Col de Turini (14.9km, 7.3%), a climb never before used in Paris-Nice, but tackled on three occasions at the Tour de France, in 1948, 1950 and 1973, when Louison Bobet, Jean Robic and Vicente Lopez-Carril were the first at the top.

Pic: Getty Images – Bob Jungels

Turini, known also from the iconic Monte Carlo Rally, will take the riders to 1 607 meters, where precious bonus seconds will await the top three. Starting and finishing in Nice, on the beautiful Promenade des Anglais, site of a TTT at the 2013 Tour de France, and where the 77th edition will conclude, stage eight will see the bunch go over six classified climbs, including Col d’Èze (1.6km, 8.1%) and Col des Quatre Chemins (5.5km, 5.5%), which tops out with nine kilometres to go, thus giving the GC contenders one last opportunity to tilt the balance in their favour.

For Philippe Gilbert, Paris-Nice will be the first stage race of the season, one which the 2012 World Champion will tackle with a strong morale following a strong showing last weekend at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Luxembourg Champion and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne winner Bob Jungels returns after four years at the French event, where the Deceuninck – Quick-Step team will be rounded out by Tim Declercq, Volta ao Algarve stage victor Fabio Jakobsen, Iljo Keisse, Fabio Sabatini and Florian Sénéchal, who on Tuesday notched up his first ever pro win, at Le Samyn.

“After the first stage, where the wind could end up influencing the outcome, the race will become harder and harder, favouring the puncheurs and the breakaway specialists. We hope to win a stage with Fabio, but he is recovering from sickness, so it remains to be seen how he goes. Paris-Nice is a step-up for him against a quality field, but regardless of how he fares, it is going to be a good experience for him. Philippe can also be in the mix on some of the days, while Bob will look to continue his fine form, do a good time trial and be a factor in the general classification”, said sports director Tom Steels.

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