Currently the focus of attention at the cobbled Classics thanks to the all-round strength of their attack, Quick-Step Floors look almost certain to hold that position when the WorldTour campaign moves on to the Ardennes in mid-April.
Most teams would be glad to feature any one of Dan Martin, Julian Alaphilippe and Philippe Gilbert in their Ardennes attack, but Quick Step have all three of these cards to play, making them the most likely challengers to Alejandro Valverde’s rule in these races.
Winner of the last three editions of Flèche Wallonne and four in all, as well as three Liège-Bastogne-Liège titles, the Spanish veteran has already shown this season that he’s got plenty of zip in his legs.
On the steep and explosive Volta a Catalunya finish at La Molina, Valverde sought out Martin’s wheel, then blew by the Irishman in the final 100 metres. Yet Martin saw his second place that day as good reason for optimism with the Ardennes very much in mind.
“I’m definitely feeling Paris-Nice in my legs at the moment. I was lacking that bit of kick at La Molina when I was trying to beat Alejandro, but I feel super, super strong and my condition is really good,” Martin told Cycling Weekly the morning after losing out to Valverde.
“Coming so close to winning the stage at La Molina and then finding out the boys had done the job in Belgium [at Dwars door Vlaanderen] was a good feeling. It’s a really tight-knit group and we’ve celebrated their result as well.”
Third at Paris-Nice, where Alaphilippe won a stage and held the lead until the penultimate stage, 2013 Liège winner Martin is relishing the return to two of his favourite races with the Frenchman, Liège runner-up in 2015.
“Every race Julian and I do together we have success. We bounce off each other really well, and now we can add Philippe into that as well,” he said of Gilbert, who completed the Ardennes double in 2011.
“It’s looking really good for the Ardennes,” Martin continued. “We’re going in with a team that’s full of confidence and belief that we can get results there this year.
“I know that after this block of racing I’m going to get there in the best possible condition and I’m looking forward to giving it a crack. I know I’ve got to beat Alejandro sometime.”