Former winner Dan Martin set to lead Quick-Step in Catalunya

'The entire team is here for him'

Quick-Step Floors will make the start in this week's Volta a Catalunya with a team built around former overall winner Dan Martin, who heads to Spain fresh off a GC podium performance at Paris-Nice.

The 30-year-old Irishman will line up for his seventh straight start in the race on Monday in the quiet seaside town of Calella, which has hosted the opening stage of the race every year since 2012. Past performances have seen Martin collect multiple podiums – including his GC win during a highly successful 2013 season that also saw him win Liège-Bastogne-Liège and a stage in the Tour de France – and two stage wins to boot. He took one of those stage wins last year and also spent a few days in the yellow jersey, before handing it over to Movistar's Nairo Quintana and settling for third overall in the final standings.

Quintana won't be back to defend his title this year, but his teammate Alejandro Valverde is one of several strong contenders on a start list that will also include Sky's Chris Froome and Trek-Segafredo's Alberto Contador.

Quick-Step will support Martin with a few climbing talents and a healthy dose of youth. Gianluca Brambilla will make for an able chief lieutenant, with Laurens De Plus, Pieter Serry and Petr Vakoc also in the mix. The Belgian squad will also bring a trio of first-year neo-pros in Rémi Cavagna, Enric Mas and Maximilian Schachmann.

"We have big ambitions with Dan, he already proved his form in Paris-Nice and we are confident we can get another nice result. The entire team is here for him, but with some stages suited to the skills of Brambilla and Vakoc, they too will have a personal shot at a good result," said sport director Geert Van Bondt in a team press release.

The 2017 Volta pits riders against the clock for the first time in years, with a lumpy 41.3km team time trial on stage 2. Van Bondt emphasised the importance of the stage to the team's overall ambitions.

"We are aware it can play a big role in the final outcome of the Volta a Catalunya, so our goal is to be in the top 3 there," he said. "Two mountain top finishes will come later in the race, but if you lose around half a minute in the TTT, it's going to be difficult to take that time back, so we'll make our homework and give everything on that day."

The Volta a Catalunya runs for seven days in total, finishing on Sunday, March 26 in Barcelona.

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