Our squad goes into the final Grand Tour of the season as World Tour team classification leader.
Nine summit finishes, 41 kilometers of time trialing and 46 classified climbs (many having excruciating double-digit gradients), these are the main ingredients of the 73rd Vuelta a España (25 August – 16 September), which this year starts with a stage against the clock from Malaga – the vibrant Andalusian city visited by the race for the 30th time since making its first appearance, in 1936 – and concludes in Madrid, after covering 3255 kilometers.
Having won a plethora of stages at the last eight Grand Tours, Quick-Step Floors hopes to extend this spectacular streak, and for that will look to Giro d'Italia maglia ciclamino Elia Viviani, who will be supported by Danish Champion Michael Mørkøv and Fabio Sabatini, two of the best and most respected lead-out men in the peloton, whose experience is second to none.
"Elia has had a tremendous season and will be our card on the stages that could come down to a bunch sprint, where Michael and Fabio make for a strong lead-out train, as they have done with success so many other times this year. It's not going to be easy, as there's a quality field here and we have to be careful with how we spend our efforts, especially as there's a lot of tricky stages, which you think they are flat but they aren't. Last but not least, the wind and the blazing heat could also play a big role in the outcome, but we will try to be ready for any kind of obstacle", said sports director Rik van Slycke, who will lead the team from the car together with Wilfried Peeters and Geert Van Bondt.
For both Dries Devenyns and Pieter Serry, La Vuelta will mark the ninth Grand Tour presence of their career and Van Slycke knows the support and input they will bring can make the difference during the three weeks of the race: "Pieter and Dries both have the experience and will be invaluable assets for the team's success. Dries can survive the shorter climbs and has a very fast kick, which can bring him into contention, should the fastest men succumb on the last climb, while Serry is strong as a horse and will play a very important role, keeping the guys in the mix or going into the break."
In 2017, Enric Mas caught everyone's attention at his home Grand Tour not only with his third place in Sagunto, but also with a composed ride on the mighty Angliru, one of cycling's most brutal climbs. This year, he built on those results, landing his first pro victory, as well as two top 10 overall results at World Tour level, in Vuelta al Pais Vasco and Tour de Suisse. Together with neo-pro Kasper Asgreen and Laurens De Plus, he will be one of the three young riders which Quick-Step Floors will field at the Vuelta.
"Enric has proved throughout this season that he can stay with the best on his day. He will start with a free role, without any kind of pressure, and then we will see what the race will bring GC wise. The same goes for Laurens, who impressed on the climbs at last year's Giro. As for Kasper, his maiden Grand Tour will be a big and important step for his development and we look forward to see how far he can go. Overall, we have a strong and determined squad that blends youth and experience and we will be ready to take responsibility, animate the race and create our chances instead of just waiting for them to come."
Photo credit: ©Sigfrid Eggers