Elia Viviani, Julian Alaphilippe and Enric Mas all feature in the Deceuninck-QuickStep squad for the Tour de France but there is no place for Paris-Roubaix winner Philippe Gilbert, who misses out on selection for the eight-rider Belgian team.
Viviani will have four riders dedicated to leading him out in the sprints: Yves Lampaert, Michael Mørkøv, Max Richeze and promising debutant Kasper Asgreen. Mas, who placed second at last year’s Vuelta a España, will have Dries Devenyns for support on his Tour debut.
"He’s our GC guy, but at the same time, this is his Tour de France debut and while he proved in the Vuelta that he can maintain his condition for three weeks, this is the Tour and it’s about learning," directeur sportif Tom Steels said of Mas, who took ninth at the recent Tour de Suisse.
"It is hard to explain what this race is until you have been part of it. Everything is harder in the Tour and he needs to understand that. He will need to be in a good position, even on the flatter stages, which are faster and more chaotic than in other races."
Viviani is making only his second appearance at the Tour after he rode La Grande Boucle in the colours of Liquigas in 2014. The Italian endured a trying, winless Giro d’Italia last month after lacking key lead out riders but he claimed two stage victories at the recent Tour de Suisse and will be among the main contenders for the first maillot jaune in Brussels on July 6 - a major goal for Deceuninck-QuickStep on their home roads.
"We need to remember that it is his first time in years at the Tour. He has proved himself as a Grand Tour stage winner, but this is the Tour and with a full team behind him, he will need to stay calm and can hopefully take his opportunity with both hands," said Steels. "Maybe it will be difficult to go for the green jersey, but we will see that day by day, as he’ll target stage wins."
Asgreen is in his first full season at WorldTour level, but the Dane has caught the eye with second place at the Tour of Flanders and third overall at the Tour of California. Steels said that his primary role in France would be to aid his leaders. "It’s Kasper’s first Tour de France and he’ll go there as a domestique even though we know he has the capacity to do more," Steels said.
Carte blanche for Alaphilippe
Alaphilippe, winner of the two stages and the king of the mountains title last year, has been perhaps the outstanding rider of the 2019 season, winning Milan-San Remo, Flèche Wallonne and Strade Bianche. He warmed up for the Tour with a stage victory at Critérium du Dauphiné, and he will have carte blanche to follow his own ambitions on all terrains in July.
"Julian is a little bit of a one-man army, a winner who last year took the climber’s jersey in spectacular fashion," said Steels.
"With him you are sure to be surprised. There are some stages, even in the first week, that really suit him, and when the course does suit him, he is one of the best in the world, so we will look for stage wins on those days."
As reported by L’Équipe on Tuesday, Gilbert will miss out on the Tour Grand Départ on home roads in Belgium. He has yet to confirm if he will stay with Deceuninck-QuickStep for 2020 and this may have played a part in final selection of the squad.
"With such a strong roster available, it was really difficult to pick just eight riders and it is a shame that people like Philippe Gilbert have to miss out, but we feel that this is a really balanced team," Steels said.
Gilbert confirmed his disappointment but promised via social media to cheer on his teammates.
"It’s with great disappointment I have to announce that I won't be participating in this year’s @LeTour. After my crash and early exit last year I was very motivated to return this year. It would have been my 10th Tour, but unfortunately I will have to postpone those plans." Gilbert wrote on Twitter.
"In the next few weeks I will be the team's number one supporter. I wish all my teammates the best of luck and I am confident that the guys will bring home some nice results."
The 2019 Tour de France gets underway in Brussels on Saturday July 6.
Deceuninck-QuickStep for the Tour de France: Julian Alaphilippe, Elia Viviani, Enric Mas, Kasper Asgreen, Max Richeze, Michael Mørkøv, Yves Lampaert, Dries Devenyns.