Etixx - Quick-Step with options for Paris-Tours
They have over fifty victories in 2015 but Etixx-Quick Step have no desire in slowing down as they send a competitive team to Paris-Tours – one of the final major one-day races in the calendar.
Matteo Trentin and Gianni Meersman will lead the team should the race end in a sprint, while former Paris-Roubaix winner Niki Terpstra will have a free role and the option to attack before the finish.
The 231km course typically favours bunch sprints but last year saw a break stay away until the line with Jelle Wallays (Topsport Vlaanderen – Baloise) taking the win ahead of Thomas Voeckler in a two-up sprint.
"We have a competitive team that can be good for a solution that normally ends in a sprint," Sport Director Wilfried Peeters said in team statement.
"We have guys like Matteo Trentin and Gianni Meersman, who are fast guys that can contest this kind of finish. Matteo showed in the last weeks that he is passing a great moment of condition. Then we have Niki Terpstra and Yves Lampaert, who can always do something, such as the Binche-Chimay-Binche solo attack of Niki just days ago. So, the team is balanced for various kinds of race situations, and we go there with the hope to end our road season with a good moment."
White: No surprises with Chaves
The 2015 season has been a breakthrough year for Esteban Chaves after his two stage wins in the Vuelta and top-ten overall spot. The form has continued with the pint-sized Colombian climber set to seal the overall win the Abu Dhabi Tour later today.
The Orica Green-Edge rider won stage 3 of the race to take the race lead after a devastating attack on the final climb. He was caught by Wout Poels (Team Sky) before the line but the Dutchman crashed, allowing Chaves to take the win. Despite the good fortune his team director isn’t surprised by Chaves growing stature and ability to hold his form.
“It’s not a surprise that Esteban is flying,” sport director Matt White said. “He was good in Beijing at this time last year after the Vuelta, and he is at another level this year.”
“It was always going to be a bit of a death march up the final climb for the majority of the group and it’s becoming a bit of a habit of Esteban’s to attack when no one is expecting.”
“When he got caught by Woet Poels it was going to go either way. Then Wout has gone in a little too hot on the last corner and has paid the price. Esteban obviously showed he was the best guy on the climb and I think it was a well-deserved win."
“With the group we have here and the way they have been looking after Esteban up until this point, I’m confident we can hold on tomorrow.”
Ulissi puts pure climbers to the sword with consistent pace-setting
Diego Ulissi (Lampre Merida) has carried his recent purple patch of form into the Abu Dhabi Tour with a strong performance on stage 3 of the race. The Italian finished fourth on the stage, 31 seconds down on winner Esteban Chaves (Orica GreenEdge) but he was up on riders including Vincenzo Nibali and Alejandro Valverde. Both of those riders attacked on the final ascent and burnt their matches – although Nibali was working with and for his teammate Fabio Aru.
Ulissi set a steady pace up the climb and chose not to follow any of the major attacks. That tactic paid off and the Italian is set for a top-five finish in the race.
"The climb was long and demanding, the weather so hot: the priority was to have a pace which could allow me to limit the gap from the pure climber - Diego Ulissi said - I'm satisfied, I succeeded in preceding many cyclists who usually are more competitive on the climbs.
It's unusual to race such kind of stages in such unusual landscape: I think the riders realized a good show".
Lampre hope that Ulissi will step-up in stage races next season, although the rider’s full race programme for 2016 has yet to be confirmed.