German national champion Greipel started his 2017 season with Trofeo Porreres victory and will be aiming for a similar winning start at the Portuguese stage race. Greipel has previously won three stages at the race and will have a strong lead out of Nikolas Maes, Jürgen Roelandts and Jens Debusschere to call upon.
"We can count on André Greipel for the two sprint stages at the Volta ao Algarve. There will be some strong opponents like John Degenkolb, Fernando Gaviria and Dylan Groenewegen," sports director Herman Frison said.
Having placed second at the Etoile de Bessèges and won the final day race against the clock, Frison is hoping his Frenchman can replicate his GC result in Portugal and better his sixth place overall from last year. The sports director also has high expectations for classics rider Tiesj Benoot across the five stages.
"Tony Gallopin was very strong at Etoile de Bessèges where he won the time trial and finished second on GC. We know the Alto do Malhão, which has to be climbed twice on the last day, from previous years, " he said. "That climb is not very long, but it is steep. The time gaps are often small at this race. That's why the time trial will also be crucial, just like the bonus seconds. The course of the time trial should suit Tony, there are many long straight parts. There will be stronger and more opponents than in Bessèges, but I expect Tony can set a good overall result."
New signing for 2017 Nikolas Maes makes his debut with Lotto Soudal at the Volta ao Algarve and first return to the race since 2013. The 30-year-old is motivated for his season opener with the race an important indicator ahead of a busy classics campaign.
"There are two sprint stages at the Volta ao Algarve and with André Greipel we have a big chance of winning," Maes said. "I will help the team in the run-up to those sprints. In Portugal we get to ride over some hills that are quite similar to those in Flanders. I need this race to get in a better shape and the way they race in Portugal is perfect for that."
The 2017 Volta ao Algarve starts February 15 with an 182.9km stage from Albufeira to Lagos and will conclude February 19 with the challenging stage 5 from Loulé to Alto do Malhão.
Lotto Soudal for the 2016 Volta ao Algarve: Tiesj Benoot, Jens Debusschere, Frederik Frison, Tony Gallopin, André Greipel, Nikolas Maes, Jürgen Roelandts and Jelle Wallays.
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