The Belgian team previously announced the participation of world champion Michal Kwiatkowski and Mark Cavendish, who will be joined by Michal Golas, Fabio Sabatini, Guillaume Van Keirsbulck and neo-pro Lukasz Wisniowski.
The team will be directed by Davide Bramati, who said the seven-day UCI 2.1 tour provides solid early season preparation for his riders.
“In last year's edition it was very hot, with temperatures around 40 degrees,” Bramati said. “So we will see what the weather will be like this year and how it can affect the race. We go there and we will see if we can come out with a stage win.
“For example, we have a rider like Mark Cavendish,” Bramati said. “There are three stages that can end in a sprint, so we will see what can happen with Mark. That's just one way we can try to get a good result at Tour de San Luis.”
The race parcours feature several medium mountain stages, including the 186.8km opening stage that begins with a climb. After the early ascent, the stage generally descends before traversing several small rollers near a finish that could favor sprinters like Cavendish.
The 185.3km second stage features a summit finish on Mirador del Portero, but it will likely be the least difficult of the summit finishing stages. The 176.3km third stage has a hilly profile but no significant climbs. The stage ends in an uphill finish, but Bramati said he believes the stage can end in a sprint.
Stage 4 appears to be a day that could be decisive for the general classification. The 142.5km Stage finishes on Alto El Amago, which features a 7.2 percent average gradient and some steep ramps. The fifth stage is a 17.4km ITT in San Luis. The course is far from flat, with a descending start and an ascending finish.
“It was the same race also in the last few years,” Bramati said of the time trial route. “It is the same parcours in 2015. It's not technical. After the start it will be straight on and then a left, with a big road for 8km. Then we come back in a big roundabout, and again straight on until the finish.
“I think it will be a good ITT for us,” he said. “We have Kwiatkowski and Wisniowski, but we will see the situation the day before. If we feel good we will go full gas in the individual time trial.”
The 117.5km penultimate stage will see the last summit finish of the race on Filo Sierras Comechingones. The Tour de San Luis concludes with an undulating, 122.4km Stage 7 that ends with a descent to the line.
Bramati pegged stages 4 and 6 as the two most important days for the general classification.
“Stage 4's finish is a long climb, 10km or so at seven percent with ramps of 10, 11 or more percent,” he said. “Stage 6 will be a long climb of about 15km with gradients of seven, eight, nine, even 10 percent sections.
“I think Stage 6 will be very important for this race. Stage 4 is a long climb, but the top is at 1,720 meters while Stage 6 finishes at more than 2,000 meters. As this is the beginning of the season, long climbs will not be easy for the peloton."
Bramati played down Etixx-QuickStep's general classification chances, saying the team was in Argentina to develop condition. Nevertheless, Etixx-QuickStep will be keen to see what can happen with stage victories.
“The competition includes guys like Nairo Quintana (Movistar), who won the overall last year, but we will focus on what our team can do, first and foremost,” Bramati said. “We know we have good riders at the start hoping to do well. You never know.”
Etixx-QuickStep Tour de San Luis roster:
Mark Cavendish, Michal Golas, Michal Kwiatkowski, Fabio Sabatini, Guillaume Van Keirsbiulck, Lukasz Wisniowski. Director: Davide Bramati
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