Following from his cracking Tour of Qatar campaign where he took four consecutive stage wins on the way to the overall, Mark Cavendish will now line up at the Volta ao Algarve which runs from 14-17 February. His Omega Pharma - Quick-Step squad will have more than just stage wins in mind when Sylvain Chavanel, Tony Martin and Michal Kwiatkowski hunt the general classification title.
"The first two stages are suited for the skills of Mark Cavendish," said OPQS sports director Tom Steels. "The stages are long, about 200 kilometers. They are also not completely flat. It's a question of handling the situations and controlling the race as much as we can."
Reigning time trial world champion Tony Martin will hope the absence of last year's overall winner Richie Porte (Sky) assists his chances for the title victory. Martin was beaten by the smallest of margins in the final time trial by Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins and finished the now four-stage race in second overall, 37 seconds behind Porte.
While Porte and his Sky teammates look for success at the Tour of Oman, Martin will look to Kwiatkowski, who finished 13th overall in 2012, and Chavanel for assistance in capturing the race victory he most recently took home in 2011. Martin won't be completely out of the Sky firing line with Jonathan Tiernan-Locke making his season debut with the WorldTour squad.
"There is also the third stage uphill finish on 2.5km, Category 2 Aldo do Malhao. It's important for the GC, and the parcour is quite difficult. It will be important for riders such as Chavanel, Martin, and Kwiatkowski to stay near the front," said Steels.
"We have three riders who on the last day are able to do a great performance on the time trial. The 34.8km TT is not so demanding and difficult. Tony is our best weapon for the TT, but we can count also on Michal, and on Chavanel who is also a good climber in these kind of uphill finishes. It will be important to not lose too much time on the climb, to be able to give everything the day after on the TT and go for a good result for the GC," he said.
This year's race has been reduced to just four days with the removal of the 186.3km race from Vilamoura to Tavira. The most decisive day will come on Day 3 atop the Aldo do Malhão - where Porte won the stage last during the 2012 edition and went about sealing his overall victory.
Team Omega Pharma - Quick-Step for Volta ao Algarve: Mark Cavendish (GBr), Sylvain Chavanel (Fra), Dries Devenys (Bel), Iljo Keisse (Bel), Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol), Nikolas Maes (Bel), Tony Martin (Ger) and Gert Steegmans (Bel).