Ireland’s Dan Martin, who last year came close to a stage victory at what was his best Tour de France outing, will headline the Quick-Step Floors team at the 104th edition of Le Tour which begins in Dusseldorf, Germany, on Saturday.
Last year’s race saw the attack-orientated rider make his way into the top 10 overall for the first time in his career. The 30-year-old, who concluded the Critérium du Dauphiné earlier this month in third position for the second season running, after a remarkable final stage which showed his amazing fighting spirit, will have another crack at the general classification, hoping to improve on last season’s result.
The Tour de France – cycling’s biggest event – puts on the table this summer a different parcours than the one of the past years, with just 37 kilometres of time trial, five mountain stages, seven flat ones, and several others which could create some serious damage in the peloton, as the traps that lie hidden on the route can change the pre-stage scenario, and at the same time force the general classification contenders take the initiative early.
World Tour leader Quick-Step Floors will head to Germany, from where the race is set to start for the first time in three decades, with a strong and experienced team, built around riders who between them have scored 17 of the 35 victories that the outfit managed by Patrick Lefevere has racked up so far this season.
German sprinter Marcel Kittel will be again the team’s designated sprinter, as he’ll try to become only the third active rider with at least ten Tour de France stage triumphs. The 29-year-old will be supported by a powerful lead-out train comprising New Zealand National ITT Champion Jack Bauer, Fabio Sabatini, Czech Road Race Champion Zdenek Stybar (himself a Tour de France stage winner in Lyon two years ago), double stage winner Matteo Trentin and Julien Vermote.
Ronde van Vlaanderen and Amstel Gold Race champion Philippe Gilbert, a stage winner and former yellow jersey wearer at the Tour de France, will return here for the first time in four years, and the experienced Belgian is sure to give the team a valuable card to play in the hilly stages.
Italian Gianluca Brambilla will make his first appearance at the Tour de France. The 29-year-old will support Dan Martin in the mountains while at the same time keep an eye on any opportunity which could arise and see him join the select group of active riders who’ve won stages in all three Grand Tours.
There will be live TV coverage and a highlights show daily on TG4 and Eurosport.