Etixx-QuickStep to target stage wins with Alaphilippe and Martin at Dauphiné

One of the most prestigious races in the World Tour calendar, the Critérium du Dauphiné will start on Sunday with a short and steep prologue, which will see the riders go to Les Gets on the punishing Montée du Mont Chéry (3.9 kilometers and a 9.7% average gradient).

On the second day, the sprinters will have their chance, before the peloton hits Chalmazel-Jeansagnière, where the spotlight is going to be again on the overall contenders. If on Wednesday the terrain will be one suited to the attackers, on stage four the course will smile to the fast men of the bunch once more.

In the final three days of the French race, it’s going to be all about the climbers, as no less than 18 categorized ascents and three altitude finishes (Vaujany, Méribel and Superdévoluy) will make up the menu. Of these, stage six – which includes the mythical Col de la Madeleine (19.2 kilometers, 7.9% average gradient) – should be the toughest and have the biggest impact on the general classification.

Fresh off the Tour of California, where he scored an emphatic mountain stage win on his way to conquering the overall, Julian Alaphilippe will return at the Critérium du Dauphiné, a race which saw him get a top 10 last year, in Sisteron. Here, he’ll team up with Daniel Martin, who’s coming back to racing after taking a break following his strong Ardennes campaign, in April. Also riding the 16th World Tour event of the season will be Maxime Bouet, neo-pro Laurens De Plus, Niki Terpstra, Stijn Vandenbergh, Martin Velits and Tony Martin, the only rider in the past 11 years to have won two individual time trial stages in the French race.

“A tough prologue awaits on Sunday, but otherwise is a balanced course, more or less the same to what we’ve seen in the past years. It’s a race that brings us closer to the Tour de France, having some of its flavor, so the guys are very motivated. Will be important to see where we stand and to tune up the condition. We come here with a team focused more on stage wins, and less on the GC, with Julian and Dan being two of the ones who can notch a victory. Still, if the right circumstances will be there, then Dan, who has a lot of experience, could leave his mark on the overall”, said sport director Brian Holm ahead of the Critérium du Dauphiné’s 68th edition.