It is set to be a busy week for the squads of Argos Shimano with the women kicking off proceedings at Le Samyn des Dames.
Overall winner, along with three stages at the Ladies Tour of Qatar, Kirsten Wild is back for the team having represented the Netherlands at the UCI Track World Championships. The 30-year-old posted fifth placings in both the Scratch and Points Race.
"With Kirsten Wild and Amy Pieters back from track worlds, we will change our tactics from Omloop Het Nieuwsblad," said sports director Cees-Jan van der Zweep. The team found Omloop tough-going but there was reason enough to be hopeful for the rest of the season with Willeke Knol and Charlotte Becker the best-placed riders just over seven minutes down on winner, Tiffany Cromwell (Orica-AIS).
"The riders have to work well together, aiming to keep Kirsten fresh so she can, just like in Qatar, show her blistering sprint," van der Zweep continued. "The course suits us as a team, with five laps including two short climbs."
A men's squad will be riding Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen on Friday with the team's plan for the remainder of the race hanging on the results of the prologue.
"With Patrick Gretsch, Tobias Ludvigsson and Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg we have guys who can ride a strong prologue, but we also have Jonas Ahlstrand, a rider who can finish well in races like this. Our tactical plan will depend on the prologue results," said sports director Adriaan Helmantel.
Another will take on the two Italian one-day races over the weekend with Strade Bianche on Saturday and then Roma Maxima on Sunday with Simon Geschke and François Parisien the focus of the team's efforts. Both riders have been steadily building their form over the past month and sports director Aike Visbeek is confident of a top-10 performance on Saturday.
"I expect that [Roma Maxima] will finish with a slightly bigger group than the Strade Bianche, as this one is a bit easier,' he said. "Simon and François will be leading in this race, and guys like Ramon Sinkeldam and Luka Mezgec can surprise us."
Also on Sunday, the 71st edition of Paris-Nice will begin with a short 2.9km prologue time trial to the north-west of the French capital. Marcel Kittel is back in action following his stage win in Oman earlier this month, with additions to his win tally very much on the agenda.
"This eight-day stage race will start with a prologue, in which Marcel Kittel and Tom Veelers will go full speed for a top result," explained sports director Christian Guiberteau. "The first part will be focused on the sprints, and the strong lead-out will risk everything to position Marcel well so he can finish the job. The second part will be a platform for Warren Barguil, where he can, supported by Thierry Hupond and Yann Huguet, show his form of the last couple of weeks."
De Kort set to return?
Dutchman Koen De Kort is hopeful of making a return to racing next week after crashing at the Tour of Qatar on February 6. De Kort broke his collarbone, resulting in surgery but with strong ambitions for the classics, it would appear as though he could be competing again at Tirreno-Adriatico which starts on March 6.
The 30-year-old indicated via his twitter feed that he is also hopeful of racing Milan - San Remo but a definite decision will be made in the next few days following consultation with the team doctor.
Le Samyn des Dames - Charlotte Becker, Kelly Markus, Marlen Jöhrend, Willeke Knol, Esra Tromp, Amy Pieters, Kirsten Wild.
3 Daagse van West Vlaanderen - Jonas Ahlstrand, Nikias Arndt, Will Clarke, Patrick Gretsch, Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg, Cheng Ji, Tobias Ludvigsson, Georg Preidler.
Strade Bianche and Roma Maxima - Thomas Damuseau, Johannes Fröhlinger, Simon Geschke, Luka Mezgec, François Parisien, Tom Peterson, Ramon Sinkeldam, Albert Timmer.
Flèche Wanzoise - Charlotte Becker, Lucy Garner, Kelly Markus, Esra Tromp, Willeke Knol.
Paris - Nice - Bert de Backer, Warren Barguil, Roy Curvers, Yann Huguet, Thierry Hupond, Marcel Kittel, Tom Stamsnijder, Tom Veelers.
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