Alaphilippe and Elegant-QuickStep explore Tour of Flanders parcours - Gallery

Julian Alaphilippe had his first taste of the cobblestones of northern Belgium this week, as he got to grips with the terrain ahead of his Tour of Flanders debut on Sunday. 

The Frenchman has won Milan-San Remo, La Flèche Wallonne, Strade Bianche, and the world road race title but Sunday will be his first taste of the Flemish Classics. 

Wearing the rainbow jersey, and clearly on form after his victory at Brabantse Pijl, Alaphilippe's debut is highly-anticipated even if his Elegant-QuickStep team have a number of other potential winners in their squad. 

Joining Alaphilippe on the squad are his key ally Dries Devenyns, along with Yves Lampaert, Kasper Asgreen, Zdenek Stybar, Florian Sénéchal, and Tim Declercq.

On Wednesday and Thursday, Alaphilippe joined his more experienced teammates on the cobbles and bergs of the Flemish Ardennes for two reconnaissance rides. 

The first saw them explore the middle section of the 243-kilometre course, ticking off the early climbs after the largely flat opening 100km. Thursday's recon saw them do 110km, focusing on the final part of the course. 

There is no Muur van Geraardsbergen on the Tour of Flanders route this year, but the finale will broadly remain intact, with the combination of the Oude Kwaremont and Pateberg to be tackle twice, with four climbs in between. 

From the top of the second ascent of the Paterberg, there's a 13km run-in to the line in Oudenaarde. 

"It’s going to be quite a strange feeling to race De Ronde in October, but it’s still one of the most important events out there and we’re ready for this challenge," said Elegant-QuickStep director Tom Steels. 

"The parcours has been shortened and not having the Muur-Kapelmuur, which has always played an important role in the race, will make things a bit different, but on the other hand, there’s plenty of terrain to try and do something. 

"We have a strong and motivated team; for Julian it will be the first time here, he has Dries by his side to guide him, and we’ll just see how that goes, but also the other guys can play an important role, especially as they are all coming here with a lot of ambition and determination to do a good race."

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