Quick-Step Floors have confirmed that Elia Viviani and Julian Alaphilippe will lead the Belgian team at Paris-Nice, with Fernando Gaviria and Philippe Gilbert due to ride Tirreno-Adriatico as they prepare for Milan-San Remo and the Cobbled Classics.
Viviani has impressed in the early-season sprints thanks to better support from the Quick-Step Floors lead out train. He has won a stage at the Tour Down Under, two stages and the overall at the Dubai Tour and a stage at last week's Abu Dhabi Tour. He has already raced for 17 days in 2018 and will target the sprint stages in the opening days of Paris-Nice.
Viviani will have the support of domestiques Tim Declercq, Dries Devenyns, Belgian national time trial champion Yves Lampaert, Michael Mørkøv and Fabio Sabatini.
Alaphilippe will take over team leadership as Paris-Nice heads south and into the hills. The aggressive Frenchman won the time trial stage in 2017 before going on to finish fifth overall and best young rider. With many of the best stage racers opting to target Tirreno-Adriatico this year, Alaphilippe is confident of fighting for the new-look yellow and white leader's jersey.
"I know many of the roads of this year's edition and I dare to say the parcours is even more demanding than the one of last year," Alaphilippe predicted.
"In the first part of the week the weather will also be a factor, with rain forecasted and strong winds, but we are coming here with a strong team and we are very determined to continue the impressive run of solid results that we have been enjoying since the start of the season. I would love to win a stage like last year, but I will take it day by day and see what happens.
"I'm quite satisfied with my first two races of the season, it was nice to be in Colombia and then in Abu Dhabi, where only two seconds separated me from a top-three finish. My results in these races gave me confidence ahead of my first outing in Europe, which I'm delighted to make at Paris-Nice, a beautiful race which I became fond of long before turning pro."
This year's Paris-Nice starts in Chatou, with a rolling 134km first stage that is perfect for punchy riders like Alaphilippe. The stage ends with a 1.9km-long climb to the line with the final 500 meters on a cobbled road.
Sprint stages follow to Vierzon and Châtel-Guyon before the 18.4km technical time trial in Saint-Étienne. The decisive mountain stages come during the final weekend with a hard day to Vence on Friday, a mountain finish up to Valdeblore La Colmiane (16.3 kilometres at 6.2 per cent) on Saturday before the final hilly stage around Nice on the Sunday.
QuickStep-Floors for Paris-Nice: Julian Alaphilippe, Tim Declercq, Dries Devenyns, Yves Lampaert, Michael Mørkøv, Fabio Sabatini and Elia Viviani.
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