Quick-Step Floors have named the six riders who will ride the team time trial (TTT) at the upcoming UCI Road World Championships, as the Belgian team aims to make it back-to-back victories in the event, and four in total since its inception as a trade-team event in 2012.
Four of the six riders who took the team to victory in Qatar last year have been included in the squad: Niki Terpstra, Bob Jungels, Yves Lampaert, and Julien Vermote. For the first time, they will have to make do without four-time individual time trial world champion Tony Martin, who now rides for Katusha-Alpecin.
Philippe Gilbert will make his first appearance in the event since being part of the BMC team that finished runner-up behind Quick-Step in 2012, while Jack Bauer completes the lineup. Laurens de Plus has been named as first reserve.
"We come here with a very strong and well-prepared team, built around experienced riders and former champions of the discipline, so we are quite confident in our chances of getting another good result," said the team's directeur sportif, Tom Steels.
"We trained really hard for this, in the past weeks we simulated on many occasions the Bergen parcours and I could see that the guys were ready for it, so I'm confident they'll show their determination and motivation on the road when it will matter."
Quick-Step won the inaugural trade team TTT in Valkenburg in 2012 and backed it up in Florence the following year, though they had to settle for bronze and silver in 2013 and 2014, respectively, as BMC became the dominant force. Quick-Step regained the crown the following year, with BMC in second, and after those placings were reversed in the recent Vuelta a España TTT, it looks like these two could be the favourites for victory in Norway.
The rolling 42.5km course in Bergen, however, will throw up a unique test. There are two proper climbs, one short but sharp - Loddefjord, 600m at10 per cent - the other longer but still steep - Birkelundsbakken, 3km at 6 per cent - along with technical descents, exposed roads, and even stretches of cobblestones
"It's up and down, a roller coaster which doesn't allow you to make any mistakes," said Steels. "There's no meter of flat, it's totally different than what we had last year in Qatar, and the weather could play a crucial role in the outcome, as the rain can turn the fast descents into a skating rink. And let's not forget the 400m-long cobblestone stretch placed not far from the finish, which can also impact on the race.
"This being said, it's a race where the strength and cohesion of the team will be key factors at the end of the day."