Etixx – Quick-Step to Volta ao Algarve
The team is going ahead with its February schedule next week, at the 2.1 Portuguese race.
This year's Volta ao Algarve comes up with a balanced parcours, which will give a fair chance at overall glory to climbers and all-rounders alike. The 42nd edition (17-21 February) will enjoy a relatively easy start, with an almost flat opening day, perfect for the sprinters, before two stages – a mountain top finish on Alto de Foia (which returns to the race after a 14-year hiatus) and a 18-km long individual time trial – that will bring the contenders to the forefront. On the penultimate day, the sprinters will have another shot at victory, with the general classification set to be decided on the traditional Alto de Malhão ascent (2.5 km, 8.9 average gradient).
"Algarve is an excellent race to test the whole set of skills a rider has. You have two bunch sprints, which aren't very easy, two uphill finishes and an individual time trial. The riders will get the opportunity to show their condition there. The most important thing about Algarve is that it's an up-and-down race, which makes it the ideal preparation for the Classics", said sport director Tom Steels, who'll lead the team from the car, together with Jan Schaffrath.
Coming from a very successful Dubai Tour, where he won two stages, the points jersey and the general classification, Marcel Kittel will line-up at the start of the Volta ao Algarve for the first time in his career. Joining him will be two-time race winner Tony Martin (2011, 2013), and sport director Tom Steels is curious to see what the 30-year-old German can do in this event.
"Tony has stage 3 to show himself, but until then we'll follow him on the first uphill finish. He can get involved in the fight for the GC, it's not impossible, but it will be difficult, considering the competition, so we're not putting any pressure on him", Tom Steels stressed out. "Marcel will be our rider for the flat stages, but Algarve won't be about just one man, because we have a lot of options to go for a nice result with the guys who are preparing the Classics."
Etixx – Quick-Step for Volta ao Algarve: Tom Boonen, Marcel Kittel, Yves Lampaert, Tony Martin, Fabio Sabatini, Zdenek Stybar, Niki Terpstra, Julien Vermote.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele