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Tour of California: Quick-Step hunting stage wins with Kittel

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Matteo Trentin (QuickStep - Floors)

Matteo Trentin (QuickStep - Floors) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Matteo Trentin (Quick-Step Floors)

Matteo Trentin (Quick-Step Floors) (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Marcel Kittel wins the 2017 Scheldeprijs

Marcel Kittel wins the 2017 Scheldeprijs (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Julian Alaphilippe tucks in for a descent during stage 4 at Pais Vasco

Julian Alaphilippe tucks in for a descent during stage 4 at Pais Vasco (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Matteo Trentin (Quick Step Floors)

Matteo Trentin (Quick Step Floors) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

The team of defending champion Julian Alaphilippe is taking a different tack at the Tour of California this year. With Alaphilippe out with injury and potential GC rider David de la Cruz battling illness, the Belgian team will focus instead on stage wins with sprinter Marcel Kittel.

While hanging out in the team hotel parking lot on Friday and gently poking fun at American pizza toppings, Italian Quick-Step Floors rider Matteo Trentin told Cyclingnews the team's immediate focus is on leading out Kittel to the stage 1 win in Sacramento on Sunday and taking the first leader's jersey of the race.

"We are here with Marcel to tune up a little bit the train with the lead out," Trentin said. "For the rest it's going to be also good preparation for the upcoming events we'll have in Europe and try even to win here."

Stage 1, a pancake flat circuit that starts and finishes in downtown Sacramento, is a perfect opportunity for Kittel, who will have to deal with challenges from Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgohe), John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo), Alexander Kristoff (Katusha-Alpecin), and Team Sky's duo of Danny van Poppel and Elia Viviani.

Although there will be multiple opportunities for the sprinters, the 2017 route also has opportunities for rouleurs and breakaway specialists. Trentin has been known to go off on an adventure or two, as he did in the Giro d'Italia last year to win stage 18 from a late three-rider move, and he may find similar opportunities this week.

Stage 2 climbs Mt. Hamilton, which won't likely be a GC decider but in the past launched a successful breakaway when Toms Skujins soloed to a win on a similar stage in 2015. Stage 4 could provide another opportunity for opportunistic riders.

"Honestly, we didn't speak until now about it, but I saw a little bit of the profile of the stages," Trentin said. "It can be sprints and some punchy, punchy finals. It will be a nice show to see for the people.

"I think it's going to be more about stages, but we'll see," Trentin said of his team's expectations for the California race. "Maybe someone has a good stage on [Mt. Baldy] and we can do something. We are more focused, for example, on the first stage with Marcel and see day by day what's going to happen."