The Etixx-QuickStep team heads into this year's Tour de France with stage wins as their main goal, and they will count on new recruit Marcel Kittel as their main man for the sprint stages. The German has racked up ten wins for the team so far this season, including two in the Giro d'Italia, where he also spent a day in the race leader's jersey. In his last Tour de France appearance in 2014, Kittel won four stages, including the first stage bunch sprint that netted him a day in the maillot jaune.
"The team is built around Marcel, and that comes as no surprise, because when you have a guy capable of winning stages in Grand Tours, it's normal to do this," manager Patrick Lefevere said.
"It wasn't easy to choose nine riders for the Tour de France, because many deserve a spot in the team, but together with the sport directors we selected the strongest collective we have at this moment, capable of achieving the goals we have outlined," Lefevere said.
The team includes Daniel Martin, who finished third overall in the Critérium du Dauphiné and Volta a Catalunya this year in addition to a third place in La Flèche Wallonne. Etixx-Quickstep also brings Tony Martin, who wore the maillot jaune last year before a crash the next day left him with a broken collarbone and he was forced to abandon.
"In the past weeks, he worked hard to be in top shape for this race and can make something great again, while at the same time being a valuable rider for the strategy we built around Kittel," Lefevere said.
Kittel's lead-out squad also includes Fabio Sabatini, Max Richeze, who recently won a stage in the Tour de Suisse, Iljo Keisse, Czech champion Petr Vakoc and Julien Vermote, with Julian Alaphilippe giving the team options for some of the tougher stages.
"We are bringing a French rider to the Tour for the first time in years, and everybody knows how talented Julian Alaphilippe is," Lefevere said. "He won the Tour of California and had a great Dauphiné, fighting hard to book a place in our team for Le Tour. Now the moment has come to give him the opportunity to discover the race and see how far he can go, without putting any pressure on him.
"The other two riders to make their debut are Iljo and Petr, the engines of the team together with Julien Vermote, all being riders in which we put our trust to get the job done. Bottom line, we are ready for the Tour de France, we are ready for the three intense weeks that lie ahead and we are ready to fight every day and adapt to any kind of scenario, as we have already showed we can do in the past."
Etixx – Quick-Step for the Tour de France: Julian Alaphilippe, Iljo Keisse, Marcel Kittel, Dan Martin, Tony Martin, Maximiliano Richeze, Fabio Sabatini, Petr Vakoc, Julien Vermote