Etixx – Quick-Step announces team for Tour of Oman
A strong and balanced squad will be at the start of the seventh edition.
While eight of Etixx – Quick-Step's riders will do the Volta ao Algarve, about 8 400 km to the East, another 8-man squad will race the Tour of Oman (16-21 February), an event which puts on the table a very selective course, with two stages apiece for sprinters, climbers and puncheurs. Jabal Al Akhdar (7.5 km with a 10.7% average gradient) returns also this year, but the big news is that the ascent will be 1.8 kilometers longer, taking the riders up to 1435 meters. Besides Jabal Al Akhdar, also Quriyat (2.8 km, 6.5% average gradient) is going to play an important role in the race and help the general classification take form, although the other hilly stages shouldn't be disregarded.
Etixx – Quick-Step has raced the Tour of Oman at all previous editions, taking the overall standings on one occasion, in 2012. Now, the team will travel to the Middle East with the goals of being again among the protagonists – on a terrain which will be very much to the riders' liking – and extending the string of strong results it has enjoyed since January.
Up until this point of the season, the team has scored no less than 8 victories, 3 of them being brought by riders who'll line up for Oman – Gianluca Brambilla, Daniel Martin and Stijn Vandenbergh. Their presence is seen as an influential factor by sport director Rik van Slycke, who'll lead the team from the car: "It's always very important to win early in the year, because this generates a certain emulation in the team and gives an even bigger motivation to the guys. We are happy with the start we've enjoyed so far and here we want to continue on this road."
"The course is perfect for the climbers – with the Green Mountain in the menu and small climbs not far off the finish in some of other days – and we have a couple of riders who can attack in order to try and get the victory. I'm talking here of Daniel Martin and Bob Jungels, who're both coming from Valenciana, where they displayed a good and improving form. Besides them, we also have Gianluca Brambilla, who proved in Mallorca what he's capable of, and even Laurens De Plus; he is young, but has some very good climbing skills. Gianni Meersman will also be there, and with his condition improving, he could get involved in some stages, while Iljo Keisse, Stijn Vandenbergh and Guillaume Van Keirsbulck will be ready to support our leaders", concluded Rik van Slycke.
Photo: ©Tim De Waele