Tour Down Under: Etixx-QuickStep lead with Vakoc

Team gives youth a chance for WorldTour opener

Etixx-QuickStep has put their faith in youth for January’s Tour Down Under with Petr Vakoc expected to lead the Belgian outfit. Vakoc had somewhat of a breakthrough season in 2015, finishing his first Grand Tour at the Giro d’Italia, winning several races in his native Czech Republic and claiming a stage in the Tour of Britain.

“I wanted an early start, so that’s why I decided to race the Tour Down Under for the first time. I like the course and I’m very motivated for Australia. Hopefully, this race will be a starting point for a great season,” he said in a press release.

The team has held back a number of key new signing including Bob Jungles, Daniel Martin and Marcel Kittel from the event with youth given a chance. The team has also selected first-year professional Davide Martinelli, who will make his WorldTour debut with the team.

“We have a young team for the race. Petr Vakoc and Carlos Verona have asked us to go there, which shows how motivated they are. Taking into account his skills and the form which looks promising, Vakoc can go for a good result in the general classification, but we’ll take each step at a time, without putting any pressure on him. He is well-suited to this course and he’ll get the opportunity to be leader in an important race,” said Rik van Slycke.

“It’s part of the development process for our young riders, to give them the leadership in some events, to deal with stress and gain experience. As for Carlos, we already saw at the end of last season that he was doing very well, he feels good and wants to continue on this road he’s started.”

The team will take part in the Down Under Classic on January 17 with the Tour Down Under officially starting two days later with a stage from Prospect to Lyndoch. Etixx-QuickStep won more races than any other team in 2015, and although they have pitched for youth at the Tour Down Under, they will be expecting a strong showing from their roster.

“A competitive team goes to Australia, a team that can get some nice results. David De La Cruz was here before and can also make himself noticed in the tough stages, while Guillaume Van Keirsbulck, Martin Velits and Pieter Serry are ready to work for the team and seize the day. As for Davide Martinelli, one of our newcomers, he’ll ride pressure-free, because this will be his first pro race and we don’t want to push him,” van Slycke added.

The full team comprises of David De La Cruz, Davide Martinelli, Pieter Serry, Guillaume Van Keirsbulck, Petr Vakoc, Martin Velits and Carlos Verona.

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