Three-time winner Tom Boonen and sprinting star Fernando Gaviria will headline the well-rounded Quick-Step roster on Sunday. Gent-Wevelgem will serve as another opportunity for Boonen to hone is form ahead of his final visits to the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix before his impending retirement. The Belgian last won Gent-Wevelgem in 2012, with a fifth-place showing in 2014 his strongest result recently.
Gaviria was the team's best-placed rider last year in sixth place, taking second in the sprint – to FDJ's Arnaud Démare – behind a four-man lead group. More recently, the Colombian notched fifth place at Milan-San Remo, pipped by Katusha-Alpecin's Alexander Kristoff in the sprint behind the lead trio. Gaviria has already racked up four victories so far this year.
As usual, Quick-Step will have several alternative cards to play on the cobbled terrain. Zdenek Stybar, Niki Terpstra and Matteo Trentin are always riders to watch come Classics season, while Yves Lampaert will take the start having proven his form at Wednesday's Dwars door Vlaanderen, where he delivered Quick-Step's first one-day WorldTour win of the year.
Quick-Step Floors for Gent-Wevelgem: Tom Boonen, Fernando Gaviria, Iljo Keisse, Yves Lampaert, Zdenek Stybar, Niki Terpstra, Matteo Trentin, Julien Vermote.
Orica-Scott all in for Luke Durbridge at Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde
Having impressed thus far in the spring classics, Luke Durbridge will head into next week's Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde eyeing the overall victory with his Orica-Scott in full support of his ambitions.
"If you see how Luke has been riding he deserves that the team works for him at this race. The last years in this race he has always finished highly and near where he needs to be," sport director Laurenzo Lapage said. "He has always been close but the last two or three years he lost time on the first days because of bad positioning and being nervous but I think now he has more control in this area.
"If he can get through the first stages without losing time then the other teams will need strong guys to beat him."
Sixth at Strade Bianche and fourth at both Dwars Door Vlaanderen and E3 Harelbeke, Durbridge is a regular top-ten finisher at De Panne and will have a strong team backing his bid for victory. Jens Keukeleire, Roger Kluge, Luka Mezgec and Alexander Edmondson add muscle with versatile Magnus Cort and Chris Juul-Jensen rounding out the squad.
The race starts Tuesday with a 205.5km stage from De Panne to Zottegem and will conclude Thursday with a split stage in De Panne.
Orica-Scott for Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde: Luke Durbridge, Magnus Cort, Alexander Edmondson, Chris Juul-Jensen, Jens Keukeleire, Roger Kluge and Luka Mezgec.
Banaszek close to Coppi e Bartali stage win
Polish neo-pro Alan Banaszek has already enjoyed a victory in 2017 at the 1.2 International Rhodes Grand Prix but came close on stage 3 of Coppi e Bartali to winning his first professional race. The 19-year-old, a second-year professional, was a narrow second to Thomas Boudat into Crevalcore explaining he had too much to do in the closing kilometres.
"In the finale riders were pushing through to get the spot just behind Boudet," said Banaszek. "He had few of his teammates in the break, was well led-out and everyone knew he is the man to beat. In the finishing meters I was able to overtake some riders and crossed the line in 2nd place, losing by half a bike length."
CCC Sprandi Polkowice won the stage 1b team time trial and with no rider in the top-50 on GC, will again be hunting a stage win on the fourth and final hilly stage to Sassuolo.
Gent-Wevelgem - The Recon Ride Cyclingnews preview podcast
The first of this weekend's one-day races has been raced and won with Greg Van Avermaet coming up trumps at E3 Harelbeke. However, Gent-Wevelgem offers an almost immediate shot at redemption with the Belgian classic turning it on in recent editions. In the latest instalment of the Cyclingnews podcast, Dane Cash and Cosmo Catalano turn their attention to both races, offering a comprehensive preview. While E3 Harelbeke has come and gone for another year, catch up on the podcast and have a listen to find out who are the contenders for victory and what to expect from the Belgian classic.
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