Quick-Step Floors assemble for the media in La Roche-sur-Yon
Julian Alaphilippe, Fernando Gaviria and Philippe Gilbert shared their thoughts before the season's biggest race.
Quick-Step Floors and the Tour de France, une histoire d'amour which started in fine style ever since our first outing on cycling's biggest stage, in 2003, when the team managed by Patrick Lefevere cruised to two spectacular victories. Since then, 30 more wins have been added to the tally, making our squad one of the most successful in the modern era and building an extraordinary roll of achievements which the eight riders selected for the 105th edition are keen on extending over the next three weeks.
For the first time since 2011, the race will start from Vendée, a region which brings back the memories for Philippe Gilbert, who on the day of the Quick-Step Floors press conference – held in the beautiful Lidl store in La Roche-sur-Yon – celebrated his 36th birthday.
"It's my third time in Vendée, a place which I like not only for having won the first stage here seven years ago, a success that brought me the yellow jersey, but also because it's quite similar to Flanders, with its roads, strong winds and great fans."
That's why I think we could be in for a great start and an electric atmosphere on the side of the road
If Gilbert is a seasoned rider in the Grand Tours, the same can't be said about teammate Fernando Gaviria, who'll make just his second outing in a three-week race, following his debut last year at the Giro d'Italia, where he won four stages and the iconic maglia ciclamino.
"As I previously said, I'm a bit nervous, but the form is good and the team around me is a strong one, in which I have the utmost confidence. All the sprinters in the race are very good and motivated to win a stage, and although it won't be a stroll in the park, I am confident we can do it. The plan is to take it day by day and see what the race has in store."
One of the stand-out riders in the first part of the season, Julian Alaphilippe has unfinished business with his home race. After coming close to a stage victory in 2016, the affable Frenchman missed last year's edition through injury, so he now comes at the start not only with a high morale, but also determined to help the Wolfpack and grab every opportunity he'll have.
"The first half of the Tour de France has many obstacles and traps and can be really selective even if the roadbook says something different. Between the sprints, the wind, the team time trial, the Mûr-de-Bretagne and the cobbles, many things can happen by the time we'll reach the first rest day. In a race, and especially in the Tour, you never know what will happen, and that's why staying attentive and focused at all times is paramount."
Quick-Step Floors for the Tour de France: Julian Alaphilippe, Tim Declercq, Fernando Gaviria, Philippe Gilbert, Bob Jungels, Yves Lampaert, Maximiliano Richeze, Niki Terpstra.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele/ Getty Images