The Quick-Step Floors team is looking to continue its successful early season success at the five-day Volta ao Algarve (February 15-19), with Dan Martin suited to the two steep uphill finishes, while Fernando Gaviria will target the two sprint stages. Friday’s 18km time trial will play a vital role in shaping the overall classification.
The Quick-Step Floors team have won the Volta ao Algarve on three occasions (2008, 2013, 2014), taking 11 stage victories in the process with eight different riders.
The Belgian squad has won 10 races so far this season thanks to Gaviria, Richeze, Tom Boonen, Marcel Kittel and
Jack Bauer. With Boonen leading another team in the Tour of Oman, that season tally should rise even further in the next seven days.
Quick-Step Floors have named a solid team to back Martin and Gaviria. Maximiliano Richeze, who, like Gaviria, won two stages at the Vuelta a San Juan in January, will be his key lead-out man, while Dries Devenyns, neo-pro Enric Mas, Zdenek Stybar, Matteo Trentin and Julien Vermote complete the solid eight-man squad.
The sprinters are expected to dominate the first stage to Lagos and again to Tavira on the fourth day, while the 18km stage four individual time trial will open some time gaps. However the steep climb to Alto da Fóia –the highest point of the race at 902 metres on stage two, and the iconic finish at Alto do Malhão (2.5km, 9.4%) after 80km of hilly racing on stage five, will no doubt decide the race and provide opportunities for Martin to use his natural aggression.
Quick-Step Floors will face some serious competition in Portugal, with 11 other WorldTour teams in action. Trek-Segafredo is sending a strong team in support of John Degenkolb, Cannondale-Drapac will field Sep Vanmarcke and Taylor Phinney, Michal Kwiatkowski will lead Team Sky, while Mark Cavendish is likely to be part of the Dimension Data line-up.
Other sprinters to watch for include Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis), Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo), Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data), Arnaud Demare (FDJ), Wouter Wippert (Cannondale-Drapac) and Andre Greipel (Lotto Soudal).