Viviani leads Quick-Step Floors at Abu Dhabi Tour

Alaphilippe and Mas provide GC options for Belgian team

With victories in his first two stage races with Quick-Step Floors, Elia Viviani is aiming to continue his winning streak this week at the Abu Dhabi Tour.

The Italian, who joined the Belgian squad from Team Sky, won a stage at the Tour Down Under in January before winning two stages and the overall at the Dubai Tour earlier this month.

The Abu Dhabi Tour, the second event on the 2018 WorldTour calendar, features three sprint opportunities for Viviani on the opening three days. A first time trial in the race's short history, combined with the Jebel Hafeet summit finish on the final day, mean the overall title will be out of his reach but Julian Alaphilippe and Enric Mas will be on hand to lead Quick-Step's GC aspirations.

"After the Dubai Tour I spent a nice week at home, recovered, and continued with my training," said Viviani. "I came out of that race in a good shape, with confidence and a super feeling with my teammates, and now I'll look to take all these factors into the Abu Dhabi Tour.

"Unlike Dubai, I'll not race for the GC, but the goal is to fight for a stage win and help the climbers on our team as much as I can on the final day."

The Abu Dhabi Tour is Alaphilippe's first WorldTour race of the season and first outing since the recent Colombia Oro y Paz, where he won a stage and finished seventh overall. With the inclusion of the time trial, he is playing down his chances for victory but not completely writing them off.

"I am happy to go there for the second time. We have a strong team and will try to get some solid results," Alaphilippe said. "I did a good GC last year and it would be nice to repeat that, although it will be different now with the ITT. But I am motivated and will do my best."

Rik van Slycke, one of two sports directors at the race for Quick-Step Floors, believes a well-drilled lead-out train will be crucial in the team's bid for stage wins. The team already have 10 wins in 2018, with sprinters Viviani and Fernando Gaviria delivering the majority of those. Van Slycke, though, is looking to challenge for victory on all five stages.

"Elia has shown great form coming into the first season with the team, scoring several wins and notching up a few podium spots," Van Slycke said. "Fabio [Sabatini] and Michael [Morkov], who played important roles in his early success for the team, will join him in Abu Dhabi alongside Alvaro [Hodeg], who is coming in from a solid start to the season in South America.

"With these guys around Elia, we hope he can be a contender for the first three stages. For the final one, we'll have two cards in Julian and Enric, while James [Knox] will make his pro debut and ease into the team after a small knee injury prevented him from racing in Spain, at Murcia and Almeria."

The 2018 Abu Dhabi Tour takes place February 21-25, with Stage 1 taking the peloton from Madinat Zaya to Adnoc School. The race concludes with the summit finish at Jebel Hafeet after 199 kilometres of racing. 

QuickStep-Floors for 2018 Abu Dhabi Tour: Julian Alaphilippe, Alvaro Jose Hodeg Chagui, James Knox, Enric Mas, Michael Mørkøv, Fabio Sabatini and Elia Viviani. 

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