New signing Rafael Valls and the experienced Adam Hansen will headline the Lotto-Soudal team at next month’s Tour Down Under. Hansen is a contender for stage victories, while the team hope that Tour of Oman winner Valls can break the top 10. Also named in the squad are Greg Henderson, Lars Bak, Thomas De Gendt, Gert Dockx and Pim Ligthart.
"We go to Down Under with Adam Hansen and Greg Henderson, who are both very motivated to perform well on their continent. And with Rafael Valls, we have a rider in the team who has top ten ambitions," said team manager Marc Sergeant, adding that Valls would be their leader in a number of early-season stage races. "Later in the year, Valls will get his chance in the stage races of one week, like Tirreno-Adriatico, Volta a Catalunya, Tour de Romandie and the Giro."
Following the race, the same squad will head to the Cadel Evans road race. For the second year running, Andre Greipel will skip the Australian race in favour of a later start to the season, with his first WorldTour appearance at Paris-Nice. The classics will be a major focus for the German, while the Giro d’Italia returns to his calendar after a successful bid earlier this year. It’s not clear where he will start his season, but in 2015 Greipel decided to begin his year at the Mallorca challenge.
"André Greipel will race the first time on WorldTour level in Paris-Nice," Sergeant said. "The Tour remains obviously the main goal, but just as in 2015 he will ride the Giro. For the Flemish classics we are well armed with Jürgen Roelandts, Tiesj Benoot, Jens Debusschere and Jelle Wallays. They are the core to try to take another step forward after 2015."
Joining Greipel at Paris-Nice will be Tim Wellens and Tony Gallopin, who was in contention for the overall victory in 2015 until the final stage. Gallopin and Wellens will be using the seven-day race and the Vuelta al Pais Vasco as preparation for the Ardennes Classics in April. It appears that the latter will also ride the Giro d’Italia rather than the Tour de France, as he did in 2014.
The Lotto-Soudal team are currently out in Mallorca for their pre-season training camp.
Lotto-Soudal for the Tour Down Under: Adam Hansen, Rafa Valls, Greg Henderson, Lars Bak, Thomas De Gendt, Gert Dockx and Pim Ligthart.