Nairo Quintana will race for the first time in the 26th edition of the Challenge Ciclista Mallorca with his Movistar team. The Colombian has started his season with the Tour de San Luis for the past three years, but instead will attend the Movistar team launch in Madrid's Distrito Telefónica on Wednesday before heading to Mallorca for Thursday's Trofeo Porreres – Felanitx – Ses Salines – Campos.
Quintana joins Alejandro Valverde for the unique four-race series, which is a string of UCI 1.1 events contested by up to eight riders from each team. Unlike a stage race, teams can change their line-up for each race.
The opening race to Campos is mostly flat and should be the domain of the sprinters. Friday's Trofeo Serra de Tramuntana from Sóller to Deià has a 10km climb that crests with 25km to go. The Trofeo Andratx on Saturday uses the same climb in the reverse direction, but it tops out with 54km remaining. The climbers will have their chance to shine at the finish, which ascends the Mirador des Colomer, a tourist destination overlooking Mallorca's Costa Brava. The racing concludes with the sprint-friendly Trofeo Playa de Palma.
Andrey Amador, Jorge Arcas, Jonathan Castroviejo, Alex Dowsett, Dani Moreno, Antonio Pedrero, Dayer Quintana, Rory Sutherland and neo-pros Nuno Bico and Héctor Carretero round out the team in Mallorca.
Team Sunweb takes aim at Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race
Team Sunweb will bring the same seven riders who competed in the Tour Down Under to the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race (CEGORR) this weekend, with German sprinter Nikias Arndt and climber Wilco Kelderman expected to be in the mix for a strong result.
Arndt was sixth behind Caleb Ewan in two stages of the Tour Down Under, the team's best result of the season so far, while Kelderman finished ninth overall.
"It is hard to predict the outcome of the CEGORR," Team Sunweb coach Luke Roberts said. "This is due to the combination of parcours that the course has. It has a mix of everything with many open roads which are affected by wind, some climbing and then a finish on a local circuit. We are prepared for all outcomes with Wilco in good shape if there is a selection on the climbs and with Nikias as our sprinter, who is suited to a hard race. We can be confident going into Sunday's race."
Team Sunweb for Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race: Nikias Arndt, Phil Bauhaus, Johannes Fröhlinger, Simon Geschke, Chris Hamilton, Lennard Hofstede, Wilco Kelderman.
Marini shines at Vuelta a San Juan
When Quick-Step Floors' Tom Boonen led out the sprint on the opening stage of the Vuelta a San Juan, the only rider other than his teammate and stage winner Fernando Gaviria and runner-up Elia Viviani (Sky) who could hold the pace was Nippo-Vini Fantini's young sprinter Nicolas Marini.
But DS Mario Manzoni thinks Marini could have done even better had confusion over the race course with 500m to go not interrupted their lead-out train.
"[Riccardo] Stacchiotti did a great job closing a gap of 50 meters on the Quick-Step Floors riders," Manzoni said. "This podium comes from great teamwork. Today the role of all the team was to help Nicolas Marini to save energy during the race to have him at the front for the final sprint. And this was done very well, with also an extra effort made by Stacchiotti in the finale. First of all, I'm happy for this teamwork that can help us to reach great results."
Marini regretted allowing Androni Giocattoli's Matteo Malucelli to get between himself and his lead-out man. He had to close a gap and jump around his compatriot and ran out of room to contend for the stage win. "At that point, I spent too much energy in the end for the victory against two top riders as Gaviria and Viviani, but I'm happy for the podium and for my condition that left me with great hope looking forward to next flat stages."
Aqua Blue Sport for Dubai Tour
The new Irish UCI Pro Continental squad Aqua Blue Sport announced its team for the Dubai Tour, which begins at the end of this month.
Britons Adam Blythe, Andrew Fenn, Mark Christian, Dan Pearson and Irishman Matthew Brammeier will represent their team along with Norwegian Lars-Petter Nordhaug, Stefan Denifl of Austria and Danish rider Lasse Norman Hansen.
Aqua Blue Sport is one of four Pro Continental teams to compete in the 2.HC race with 10 UCI WorldTour teams, one UCI Continental team and the UAE national team.
"I'm excited to kick off my season with Aqua Blue Sport at the Dubai Tour 2017, it'll be a huge opportunity for us to gauge where we're at as a team," Adam Blythe said. "During the training camp in December the team have gelled well together, we're excited to show what Aqua Blue Sport can do from the outset.
"Our ambition for 2017 is not just to compete but also to achieve podium finishes. Aqua Blue Sport fosters an environment that allows us to be the best riders we can be and deliver world-class performances – I'm looking forward to a great year ahead with Aqua Blue Sport."