Milan San-Remo winner Julian Alaphilippe will lead Deceuninck – Quick-Step at this year’s Tour de France, as the Belgian team announce their squad for the race.
Last year’s polka dot jersey victor will be accompanied by an all-star roster, including four national road race champions, Belgium’s Yves Lampaert, Italy’s Elia Viviani, Denmark’s Michael Mørkøv and Argentina’s Max Richeze
>> Struggling to get to the shops? Try 6 issues of Cycling Weekly magazine for just £6 delivered to your door <<
However, a few of the jerseys will have changed hands before the peloton rolls out from Brussels as a number of the 2019 national championships take place this week.
Enric Mas, who won the young rider classification at the 2018 Vuelta a España, is the squad’s most accomplished climber, with Kasper Asgreen and Dries Devenyns completing the eight-man squad.
Philippe Gilbert is possibly the most notable absentee, missing out on a Grand Départ from the capital city of his native Belgium.
With the veteran Belgian out of contract with the team at the end of the season and yet to sign a renewal he will miss the opportunity to start his 10th Tour de France.
Gilbert, who took the yellow jersey in 2011 after winning stage one, has not yet completed a Tour de France for Deceuninck – Quick Step since signing from BMC in 2017, climbing off with only a few stages left in the previous two years.
Luxembourg champion Bob Jungels will also not get the chance to follow up last year’s 11th place finish, with Asgreen being handed his first ever Tour start after coming second in the Tour of Flanders and winning the points classification at the Tour of California.
Lampaert’s inclusion will aid the squad during the team time trial, while Elia Viviani will be looking to compete in bunch sprints, backed by the full squad on flat stages. This will be the Italian champion’s first Tour de France since 2014, having never won a stage. However, Viviani does have Grand Tour pedigree, havin previously won five stages of the Giro d’Italia and three stages of the Vuelta.
Alaphilippe will be their star man, though, who won his first Monument at Milan-San Remo 2019 as part of a phenomenal spring Classics campaign that saw him also pick up victories at La Flèche Wallonne and Strade Bianche.
The Frenchman will be looking to defend his 2018 king of the mountains classification victory as well as targeting stage wins. “Julian is a little bit of a one-man army,” his sports director Tom Steels said. “A winner who last year took the climber’s jersey in spectacular fashion.
“With him you are sure to be surprised. There are some stages, even in the first week, that really suit him, and when the course does suit him, he is one of the best in the world, so we will look for stage wins on those days.”