Julian Alaphilippe is preparing for his Tour of Flanders debut at a Deceuninck-QuickStep training camp where he and select teammates previewed the shortened route on Wednesday. The team spent the majority of a four-hour ride hitting iconic climbs Oude Kwaremont, Paterberg, Eikenberg and Koppenberg.
"I was very happy to see again my teammates, sports directors and the rest of the staff during these three days. You could see and feel how happy everyone was to be here. At the end of the day, the Wolfpack is still the Wolfpack, and that’s one of the things that matter the most," Alaphilippe said in a team press release.
Alaphilippe has enjoyed much success during the last three years with victories that include Milan-San Remo, Strade Bianche, twice Flèche Wallonne, Clasica Ciclista San Sebastian, and four stages of the Tour de France.
He confirmed last December that he would make his debut at the Tour of Flanders this year.
The racing has been halted due to the COVID-19 coronavirus with the Tour of Flanders being rescheduled for October 18. The men's race has also been shortened from 267km down to 241km with the removal of Tenbosse and the Muur van Geraardsbergen.
"Doing a recon of Flanders was exciting, and although it was my first time here, I learned many things, got a lot of advice – like for example, from Dries [Devenyns], who lives not far from the Oude Kwaremont, a hill that we climbed a couple of times today – and had a great opportunity to take on this legendary route!" Alaphilippe said.
"Everybody knows that De Ronde is an iconic race and to discover it is a challenge for me. Having this goal of being on the start line this year motivates me a lot and makes me eager to be there in four months’ time. I don’t know how I will perform, but what I do know is that I’ll work hard for my condition, so I can do my best here."
Deceuninck-QuickStep have spent three days together training in Belgium and previewed Gent-Wevelgem on Tuesday. It's the first time the team has reunited since public health and travel restrictions surrounding the coronavirus have begun to ease. The main purpose of the camp was, not only to preview the Classics routes, but to reconnect as a team.
"I’m happy with the past few days. It’s been good for the riders. They had fun, it was nice to see that the Wolfpack vibe was still there. During the training rides it wasn’t always just two by two, there was some competition between the guys, and this led to a great atmosphere. It was a welcome change from the past months, in which they had to train mostly alone," said director Koen Pelgrim.
"We did a long recon of Gent-Wevelgem and twice the final part of the Ronde van Vlaanderen. There have been some changes to the parcours, so it was useful to go and have a look. That was more important than having structured training sessions. With the various climbs and cobbled sections that we tackled, all with a different gradient or difficulty, that would also be kind of hard. We know that Julian is very strong on shorter climbs, but cobbled climbs aren’t the same. It was good for him to take on the Flemish cobbled climbs with his teammates.
"Now the guys will have a calm couple of days after which they will start training again towards our next training camp in Val di Fassa (Passo San Pellegrino). There it will be more essential to organize structured training days and get everyone ready for the restart of the season."
The WorldTour calendar is expected to officially begin on August 1 at Strade Bianche, Milan-San Remo on August 8 and Il Lombardia on August 15, which will overlap with the Critérium du Dauphiné from August 12-16.
The Tour de France will be held from August 29-September 20, Giro d’Italia from October 2-25 and a shortened Vuelta a España from October 20-November 8. The remaining three Monuments will overlap with the Giro d'Italia with Liege-Bastogne-Liege on October 4, Tour of Flanders on October 18 and Paris-Roubaix on October 25.
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