Julian Alaphilippe (opens in new tab) and Sam Bennett (opens in new tab)will headline Deceuninck-QuickStep (opens in new tab) at the Tour de France (opens in new tab), which gets underway in Nice on Saturday.
Bennett will lead the line in bunch sprints, with directeur sportif Tom Steels saying that Alaphilippe would not necessarily be seeking to repeat his remarkable showing at last year’s Tour, where he led the race until the final Friday.
Michael Mørkøv will serve as Bennett’s lead-out man in the sprints, Tim Declercq will again be a regular presence at the head of the peloton, while Dries Devenyns will play a key role as Alaphilippe’s most trusted domestique. Zdenek Štybar, Bob Jungels and newly-crowned Danish champion Kasper Asgreen complete a strong line-up.
Alaphilippe held the yellow jersey for fourteen days during the 2019 Tour, winning two stages and eventually finishing fifth overall in Paris. The route of the rescheduled 2020 Tour seems to lend itself to his punchy style but is also very mountainous.
Steels warned that it would be difficult for Alaphilippe to repeat last year’s showing.
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“For Julian it will be very difficult to repeat last year’s Tour, but at the same time, it’s not necessary to do it. We will take it with him day by day and see what happens,” Steels said.
“There are some nice opportunities for him, but I can tell you we aren’t thinking of a scenario similar to that of the previous Tour.”
Alaphilippe placed second in a thrilling edition of Milan-San Remo two weeks ago and he was also on the offensive at the Critérium du Dauphiné as part of his build-up to the Tour but struggled to be a consistent overall contender.
Bennett returns to the Tour for the first time since 2016 and the Irishman will be looking to add a stage win at the Grande Boucle to his previous successes at the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta a España.
He warmed up for the race with stage wins at the Vuelta a Burgos and the Tour de Wallonie, but sprint opportunities are at a premium on the 2020 Tour route.
“In Sam, we have a contender for the bunch sprints, which won’t be so straightforward as in the past, the route being one of the toughest in recent memory,” Steels said.
“I think there are maximum four clear stages for sprinters spread over the three weeks.
“Michael will be Sam’s last man and will guide him through those hectic final kilometers, but also Kasper and Styby will play an important role in his lead-out train, while at the same time keeping an eye on breakaway opportunities.”
Jungels and Devenyns will be charged with riding in support of Alaphilippe throughout, while Tim Declercq – voted the best domestique (opens in new tab) in the peloton by his peers in a Cyclingnews poll – will be in a familiar role.
“Tim will do what he does best: control the race. He is a world-class domestique and has the power and knowledge to do it,” Steels said.
Deceuninck-QuickStep for the Tour de France
Julian Alaphilippe (Fra), Kasper Asgreen (Den), Sam Bennett (Irl), Tim Declercq (Bel), Dries Devenyns (Bel), Bob Jungels (Lux), Michael Mørkøv (Den) and Zdenek Štybar (Cze)
Ready for the first Grand Tour of the season!Check out the eight Deceuninck - Quick-Step riders who will be in Nice on Saturday for the start of the 107th @LeTour: https://t.co/3RlJrgPbDsVideo: @lapedalecc pic.twitter.com/Z1ivXZmFSKAugust 24, 2020
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