Volta a Catalunya overall winner Alejandro Valverde will head up the Movistar squad for Dwars door Vlaanderen. Nairo Quintana will join his teammate in making the trip to Belgium after coming second overall in the Spanish stage race.
The one-day WorldTour Dwars door Vlaanderen enjoys a new spot on the calendar, after languishing in the mid-week spot after Milan-San Remo before leapfrogging Driedaagse De Panne to the Wednesday before Tour of Flanders.
The race offers a taste of the cobblestone roads and hellingen of Flanders while clocking in at a mercifully short 180.1km in length.
Many of the Tour de France contenders have opted to dip their toes into the Flemish classics with an eye of becoming more familiar with riding pave for stage 9 of the Tour, which covers 21.7km of cobbles.
In 2014 Valverde raced Dwars door Vlaanderen and E3 Harelbeke to prepare for a similar cobbled stage of the Tour, and Quintana did the same in 2015.
Valverde and Quintana join the rest of the team who have raced E3 Harelbeke and Gent-Wevelgem: Jorge Arcas, Carlos Barbero, Hector Carretero, Nelson Oliveira, Jasha Sutterlin.
Mikel Landa, who crashed during the E3 Harelbeke but finished the race with a better feel for the stones, will not race Dwars door Vlaanderen.
Movistar for Dwars door Vlaanderen: Alejandro Valverde, Nairo Quintana, Jorge Arcas, Carlos Barbero, Hector Carretero, Nelson Oliveira, Jasha Sütterlin.
Hodeg joins Quick-Step Floors 'wolf pack' for Dwars door Vlaanderen
Colombian Alvaro Hodeg will join his Quick-Step Floors teammates on their home soil for Dwars door Vlaanderen. The winner of the Handzame Classic and the opening stage of the Volta a Catalunya will ride as a backup sprinter along with Max Richeze to Elia Viviani, who was second in Gent-Wevelgem.
With the change to the route for 2018, reducing the distance and severity of the climbs, the Belgian squad is banking more on the race coming back together.
"It's a completely different course compared to the one of the previous edition, however, it won't be any easier, as it's still a very tough profile," said directeur sportif Tom Steels.
"The final is quite the same but there are less cobbles and hills, which on paper will play in favour of a bigger group battling it out in a sprint. One of the things that can ruin it for the sprinters is bad weather conditions, which will make the race a lot more difficult to control for them."
Defending Tour of Flanders champion Philippe Gilbert will sit out the race, but last year's Dwars door Vlaanderen Yves Lampaert will ride along with E3 Harelbeke winner Niki Terpstra.
"Some riders and teams might have De Ronde in mind or be tired from the heavy program of this period, which could make for an atypical race, where even an early breakaway has a chance to go all the way, so we must be prepared for any scenario," Steels said.
"We have Viviani in the team, Richeze and Hodeg are there as well, so if we have a chance to go for a sprint, we will try and take it. After finishing in the top three at the last seven races on Belgian turf, we are very motivated to keep the momentum going."
Iljo Keisse and Zdenek Stybar round out the team's seven-man squad.
Quick-Step Floors for Dwars door Vlaanderen: Alvaro Jose Hodeg, Iljo Keisse, Yves Lampaert, Maximiliano Richeze, Zdenek Stybar, Niki Terpstra, Elia Viviani.
Bardet to get a taste of the cobbles in Dwars door Vlaanderen
After showing surprising prowess on the white gravel of Strade Bianche, finishing second to Tiesj Benoot, AG2R La Mondiale's Grand Tour star Romain Bardet will join the team for Dwars door Vlaanderen as a dress rehearsal for the Tour de France stage to Roubaix.
"For him, there are three goals," says AG2R directeur Julien Jurdie. "First of all, Romain is in love with cycling culture. So for him, it will be important to immerse himself in the feelings and emotions of Flanders. Secondly, it will give him a serious life-sized test before he faces the cobbles in the next Tour de France.
"And finally, he is happy to come and work for his friend Oliver Naesen, who has been such valuable support to him throughout the season."
Naesen finished a frustrating fourth in E3 Harelbeke and was sixth in Gent-Wevelgem.
"He crashed at E3, he was blocked in the sprint for Gent-Wevelgem. We hope that this situation will be reversed and that the success reflects the quality of his form since he certainly has the legs to get on the podium."
AG2R La Mondiale for Dwars door Vlaanderen: Nico Denz, Rudy Barbier, Tony Gallopin, Oliver Naesen, Romain Bardet, Gediminas Bagdonas, Stijn Vandenbergh.
Trek-Segafredo recruits young Italian talent Matteo Moschetti
Trek-Segafredo has opted to upgrade young Italian Matteo Moschetti from the Polartec-Kometa Continental development team to the WorldTour for the 2019 and 2020 seasons.
Moschetti, 21, who has won six races so far this season, already rode as a trainee with the WorldTour team last season.
"I can say I'm really looking forward to being part of this great team for the next years," Moschetti said. "After being a stagiaire with the team last August in Colorado, I had the chance to get to know them and ever since I have worked a lot to improve. I'm really excited to join Trek-Segafredo in 2019, but first I would like to continue and finish well this season with Polartec-Kometa."
General manager Luca Guercilena had his eye on signing Moschetti for this season, but said it was "wiser to let him mature one year more in the continental team".
"With 2 stage wins in the Tour of Antalya, one stage win in the International Tour of Rhodes, a victory in the International Rhodes Grand Prix and 2 stage wins in the Tour de Normandie, so early on in the season, I think he has proved he's ready to step up to the WorldTour."
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