Fresh off his third-place finish in last month's Milan-San Remo Monument, Julian Alaphilippe will take the reins of Quick-Step Floors at Pais Vasco, which starts Monday in Pamplona and ends Saturday with an individual time trial in Eibar.
In between the start and finish, riders will face 19 typically brutal categorised climbs as 20 of the world's top teams vie for the win. Alaphilippe will be challenged on the hilly parcours by the likes of Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo), Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale), Warren Barguil (Team Sunweb), Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale-Drapac) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar).
"I've had a break after completing Milano-San Remo, but I continued to train for my April goals, and Pais Vasco will allow me to see where I stand ahead of the Ardennes Classics," said Alaphilippe, who was second to Alejandro Valverde in Liege-Bastogne-Liege in 2015.
The 24-year-old Frenchman has made a speciality of the Ardennes Classics, coming second to Valverde in both Liege and Flèche Wallone in 2015. He was seventh in Amstel Gold in 2015 and sixth last year.
Alaphlippe is shaking up his preparation a bit this year, however, with a much busier early season than usual. Alaphilippe already has 17 race days under his belt, including a successful Paris-Nice that saw him win the green and white jerseys, take a stage victory and place fifth overall. This year will be his first at Pais Vasco.
"It will be my first time here and I'm eager to discover this event, of which I've heard only nice things, despite it being one of the toughest stage races out there," he said. "I can't say I start with a specific goal. I'll just take it one day at a time, and if an opportunity will arise, I will try to grab it."
Quick-Step Floors for Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco: Julian Alaphilippe, Gianluca Brambilla, Eros Capecchi, David De La Cruz Melgarejo, Dries Devenyns, Enric Mas, Maximiliano Richeze, and Martin Velits.