Etixx – Quick-Step to Grand Prix de Wallonie
The 57th edition of the Belgian race is scheduled on Wednesday.
In the past, more than half a century ago, the spectacular Namur climb used to be a regular feature on the course of La Flèche Wallonne, the first of the two Ardennes Classics. In recent times, it is known as the decisive ascent of the Grand Prix de Wallonie, coming at the end of a 202km hilly race, when the riders' legs are burning because of the lactic acid build up. Starting from Namur, the 2-km long scenic Citadelle climb averages 6%, but ramps up to 8% and is made even harder by its cobbled segments, which add salt and pepper to the fight for victory.
Etixx – Quick-Step's team for Wednesday's race will be one of the youngest to line up at the start in Beaufays, the small town located in the municipality of Chaudfontaine. One of the most successful neo-pros of the season, with five wins to his name, Fernando Gaviria returns to racing following his track campaign at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, with fellow countryman Rodrigo Contreras set to join him.
Julien Vermote – who won a stage and enjoyed a four-day spell in the yellow jersey at the Tour of Britain – will also be part of the squad, together with Davide Martinelli, Guillaume Van Keirsbulck, stagiaires Ivan Cortina and Adrien Costa, and Petr Vakoč, who is already back in Europe after making a strong impression last week in Canada.
"The race will come to life in the last 25 kilometers, once the peloton will take on Côte de Lustin, which isn't long, but can really shake up things. From that point on, there's only two climbs left, Tienne aux Pierres and the Citadelle de Namur, which will see a reduced bunch tackle it. Our team for the race is a young one, but we are confident that we can get a nice result", said sport director Geert Van Bondt ahead of the 57th Grand Prix de Wallonie.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele