Deceuninck-QuickStep's Julian Alaphilippe says that he'd dearly love to add the Strade Bianche to what his burgeoning palmares, and victory at the Italian one-day race on Saturday would continue his team's rich run of success over this past week.
After Zdenek Stybar's win at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Bob Jungels' victory the next day at Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne at Opening Weekend last Saturday and Sunday, followed two days later by Florian Sénéchal's first pro victory at Le Samyn on Tuesday, Deceuninck-QuickStep are backing Alaphilippe on the Tuscan gravel roads of Strade Bianche.
And Alaphilippe is a favourite for victory despite never having taken part in the race before.
"It will be my first time at Strade Bianche – a race I have always followed on TV, and a race that I'm very glad to be starting the year," the 26-year-old Frenchman said when Deceuninck-QuickStep confirmed its line-up for the race. "The motivation and morale are there, and I hope it'll turn out to be a good race for me.
"I'm very happy with the way my season started, with three victories in Argentina and Colombia," he continued, referring to his two victories at the Vuelta a San Juan and a stage win at the Tour Colombia 2.1. "My condition is good and I can't wait to be in action in Italy."
With the on-form Stybar – the winner of Strade Bianche in 2015 – also in the squad's ranks for the 184km race, ably backed up by Petr Vakoc, Pieter Serry, Yves Lampaert, Eros Capecchi and Dries Devenyns, the team knows that it goes into Saturday's event with a strong line-up.
"It's our first outing of the season in Italy, and at a race that has grown in stature and has become everyone's favourite," added sports director Davide Bramati.
"We've won here twice [with Stybar in 2015 and Michael Kwiatkowski in 2014], and are motivated to again be in contention.
"If you look over the team, you can see how solid it is, with many riders capable of making the difference and being there in the key moments of the race. Following last week's results, we carry a bulletproof confidence into the race and hope to do well again," he said.
Deceuninck-QuickStep for the 2019 Strade Bianche: Julian Alaphilippe, Eros Capecchi, Dries Devenyns, Yves Lampaert, Pieter Serry, Zdenek Stybar, Petr Vakoc.