Etixx-Quick Step head to Volta a Catalunya this week with 2013 champion Dan Martin leading its GC ambitions while Julian Alaphilippe continues his return to racing after a five-month break due to mononucleosis late last-year and will be called upon to support Martin across the seven-stage race. Czech national champion Petr Vakoč and Gianni Meersman will have the opportunity to chase stage wins across the seven-stages in a balanced eight-rider squad.
"It's pretty much the same Catalunya. I like this race, always did, because it's very well-organized and with varied terrain: some sprint finishes, big breakaways and the typical mountain stages, which means everyone will have a chance," said sports director Brian Holm
Martin will be able to call upon Maxime Bouet and David de la Cruz in the crucial Pyrenean stages, stage 3 to La Molina and stage 4 to Port Ainé, while Holm explained he is interested how 23-year-old Carlos Verona will perform on GC.
"We have a strong team, with Daniel Martin, who's already won the overall, and will ride again for the GC. We'll see how far he can go. The same can be said also about Carlos, I'm very curious to find out what he can do," said Holm, adding further explanation on what he expects from his riders.
"Petr is in great form since February, and will target some stages, just as Gianni, who comes here after finishing third in Handzame, where he showed that his form is improving. It will be an important race, but from a different point of view, also for Julian Alaphilippe and Laurens De Plus," he said. "As we know, Julian's winter training has been hampered by illness, so now he will build up and add kilometers under the belt. As for Laurens, Catalunya will be part of his learning process, and I'm sure he will fare well, especially as he has a good teacher in Daniel Martin."
Martin won a stage at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana, his first race in Etixx-Quick Step colours since his move from Cannondale-Garmin after eight seasons, before heading to the Tour of Oman in February. The 29-year-old is building for his early-season goal of the Ardennes classics and will be looking to improve upon his tenth place on GC in 2015.
The Volta a Catalunya starts Monday with a 175.8km stage in Calella that features five catergorised climbs and concludes Sunday with the Montjuïc city circuit.
Etixx-Quick Step for Volta a Catalunya: Julian Alaphilippe, Maxime Bouet, David De La Cruz, Laurens De Plus, Daniel Martin, Gianni Meersman, Petr Vakoc, and Carlos Verona.