Alaphilippe and Viviani give Deceuninck-QuickStep cards to play at Milan-San Remo

Belgian team cover bases, bringing Gilbert and Stybar in seven-man team

Deceuninck-QuickStep will be looking to cover all eventualities at this weekend’s Milan-San Remo, announcing Julian Alaphilippe and Elia Viviani as joint leaders for the race. Philippe Gilbert and Omloop Het Nieuwsblad winner Zdenek Stybar will also be a part of the seven-man team.

QuickStep have twice won the Monument but the last time came in 2006 when Filippo Pozzato beat Alessandro Petacchi in a bunch sprint.

Alaphilippe finished on the podium in 2017, finishing third in a tightly fought three-man sprint with Michal Kwiatkowski and Peter Sagan, after the three broke clear on the Poggio. Should it come down to a sprint to the line, Alaphilippe will be buoyed by his victory on Stage 6 of Tirreno-Adriatico where he beat several top sprinters – including Viviani – in a chaotic bunch sprint. The Frenchman also laid claim to a win earlier in the race and took an impressive win at Strade Bianche at the start of the month.

“We had a beautiful week in Tirreno-Adriatico. I feel good and have a very strong morale after picking up two stage wins there. The team is solid and doesn’t lack options, as you can see. I hope to carry my recent form into Milan-San Remo, to have a good race and feature in the finale,” said Alaphilippe.

While Alaphilippe provides Deceuninck-QuickStep with a serious contender in a breakaway situation or a small sprint, Viviani would be a favourite for victory if the race were to come to a bunch sprint on the Via Roma. Milan-San Remo is a race that Viviani has long been targeting and he previously stated that it was his only opportunity to claim a Monument.

Following his move to QuickStep last year, Viviani dominated the sprints and finished the season with 18 victories, more than anyone else in the peloton. However, Milan-San Remo did not bring the reward he had hoped for. After Vincenzo Nibali took the win from a solo breakaway, Viviani faded in the bunch sprint and could only manage 19th, though he was QuickStep’s best finisher. Viviani is on four wins so far this season and is in a confident mood ahead of the race.

“The team is in good shape, knows how to handle the pressure and is prepared for the race,” said Viviani. “Milan-San Remo is one of my dreams, it’s at the top of my list actually, and winning it would be really amazing. Of course, we won’t be alone over there, as many teams will start with the same goal of taking the victory, but we go into the race motivated, extremely confident and with a plan.”

Gilbert will continue his ‘strive for five’ Monument wins at Milan-San Remo, and while he is not an official leader at the team, he cannot be discounted. Gilbert has twice been on the podium in San Remo, though the last visit came in 2011. Stybar also provides another option for a breakaway and could well be used as a foil for Alaphilippe.

The team will be completed by Belgian Yves Lampaert, lead-out man Max Richeze and strong domestique Tim Declercq.

Deceuninck-QuickStep for Milan-San Remo: Julian Alaphilippe, Elia Viviani, Philippe Gilbert, Zdenek Stybar, Yves Lampaert, Max Richeze and Tim Declercq.

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