Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors) will make his debut at the Tour of California as one of several marquee sprinters set to contest the bunch kicks during the seven-day race. He will lead a seven-man team that director Brian Holm says is young but packed with talent.
"The Tour of California is one of the best races of the season, one where we have always felt good and enjoyed many beautiful moments," Holm said.
"The course will take us through many parts we already know and, as you could see, it's a hard one with many challenges, but the team - despite being young - is up for the challenge and we are confident we can leave from here with some good results in the bag."
The race begins Sunday in Long Beach with a 12-lap circuit race totalling 134.5km. The last time the event hosted a stage in this area was during its second edition in 2007, when Cuba's Ivan Dominguez won the furious bunch sprint while racing for Toyota-United.
Sprinters will be looking to the opening stage to get a win and take hold of the first leader's jersey. Gaviria will face world champion Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), who has won a record 16 stages along with the overall title in 2015. Other top sprinters confirmed to start are Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data), Caleb Ewan (Mitchelton-Scott), Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates) and Marcel Kittel (Katusha-Alpecin), all vying for stage wins.
In 10 previous starts at the Tour of California, Quick-Step Floors has won the general classification with Julian Alaphilippe in 2016, two other distinctive jerseys and a total of 11 stages.
Gaviria will be the team's best chance for stage wins in the sprints after winning four races this season: the opening stage at the Vuelta a San Juan and three stages at the Colombia Oro y Paz. However, he was forced to miss all of the Classics after a crash at Tirreno-Adriatico meant that he had to undergo surgery on a spiral fracture to a bone in his left hand.
Now recovered, he will likely want to continue Quick-Step Floors winning success after the Classics. The tea has taken 29 season victories so fa and are leading the WorldTour standings after wins at De Ronde van Vlaanderen and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
The team in California will consist of neo-pros Kasper Asgreen, Alvaro Hodeg and Jhonatan Narvaez, along with Laurens De Plus, Iljo Keisse and Maximiliano Richeze, who will be Gaviria's trusted lead-out man.
Quick-Step Floors for Tour of California: Kasper Asgreen, Laurens De Plus, Fernando Gaviria Rendon, Alvaro Jose Hodeg Chagui, Iljo Keisse, Jhonnatan Narvaez, Maximiliano Richeze.
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