Quick-Step Floors Cycling Team to Vuelta al Pais Vasco
A flat time trial and 23 classified ascents will shape the overall standings at next week's race.
One of the oldest races in Spain, won by some of the biggest riders in history, mentioned in Ernest Hemingway's closing chapters of "The Sun Also Rises" and a real feast for the puncheurs, Vuelta al Pais Vasco returns for the 58th edition (2-7 April), with its stunning landscape and brutal climbs.
The first two stages, rolling out from Zarautz, a coastal town located in the province of Gipuzkoa contain a total of nine classified climbs, with the last hurdle of the day (Elkano Gaina and San Pelaio, respectively) coming each time in the final ten kilometers. Stage 3 presents a rare opportunity for a bunch sprint, before the time trial specialists will take on a 19.4km-long race against the clock, held over a flat and technical course, something unusual for the Vuelta al Pais Vasco. Eibar, on the penultimate day, shouldn't shake up too much the general classification, which will be set in stone by the Arrate stage and its eight punishing climbs.
Quick-Step Floors will be one of the youngest teams in the race, for which it will line up a seven-man roster consisting of Julian Alaphilippe, Eros Capecchi, Rémi Cavagna, James Knox, Enric Mas, Jhonatan Narvaez and Pieter Serry. Brian Holm, who'll guide the team from the car together with Davide Bramati, is confident the squad can continue the impressive run of results on Spanish soil, which began two weeks ago, at the Volta a Catalunya.
"We know from previous years how tough a race it is, and lining up with a very young team this year, we can afford to race it as underdogs. It will be up and down almost every day with many short steep climbs tackled on small, narrow roads. It is like a one-week edition of Flèche Wallonne, basically. Despite the smaller roads, the peloton is rarely very nervous, making for a nice race, especially for the young riders. No doubt it is a tough one and it won't be any easier if we have rain and cold temperatures, which is not uncommon for the race."
"The ITT is not anything like we have seen in previous years, being pancake flat, however, on paper it looks like it has some technical parts with a few sharp corners. We will take the days as they come, grabbing our chances like we did in Catalunya, where we surprised everybody with offensive racing and two wins", Brian Holm continued. "Jhonatan was one of the youngsters who impressed there along with his teammates James and Enric, all three lining up on Monday again. Without pressure, we look forward to see what they can make out of it. Pieter is one of our more experienced riders and on his best days he is a strong climber. The same goes for Julian, who has not been in action since Milano-Sanremo and is eager to get back to racing."
Photo credit: ©Sigfrid Eggers