Quick-Step Floors Team to Vuelta al Pais Vasco
April's first World Tour stage race promises to be once again one of the most spectacular and thrilling of the season.
"In the Basque country the land all looks very rich and green and the houses and villages look well-off and clean". If Ernest Hemingway would have been an avid road cycling fan at that time, he would have mentioned in his acclaimed novel "The Sun Also Rises" also the steep and excruciating climbs of the Basque Country, a region where is almost impossible to find a meter of flat.
Since its inception, in 1924, Vuelta al Pais Vasco has attracted on a regular basis a star-studded field at the start, and continues to do so almost a century later, when cycling has changed, but its iconic ascents have remained as brutal as back in the days when the riders still weren't using the derailleur system, despite it being invented in the early years of the 20th century.
The very same climbs will await the riders at next week's Vuelta al Pais Vasco, which will start in Pamplona, the city worldwide famous for its San Fermin festival. Between this and Eibar, where the race will draw the curtain on Saturday with a testing individual time trial, the bunch is set to face 19 categorised climbs and visit some of the race's most iconic locations, including San Sebastian, Bilbao and Santuario de Arrate.
The ever-evolving Julian Alaphilippe, who this season took home the green and white jerseys at Paris-Nice on top of winning a stage and finishing fifth overall, will line up for the 57th edition of the race two weeks after riding to third at his Milano-Sanremo debut. Julian will be joined by an attack-orientated team, capable of being a factor on all types of terrain, a squad which includes Gianluca Brambilla, Eros Capecchi, Paris-Nice stage victor David De La Cruz, Dries Devenyns, neo-pro Enric Mas, double Vuelta a San Juan stage winner Maximiliano Richeze and Martin Velits.
"I've had a break after completing Milano-Sanremo, but I continued to train for my April goals, and Pais Vasco will allow me to see where I stand ahead of the Ardennes Classics. It will be my first time here and I'm eager to discover this event, of which I've heard only nice things, despite it being one of the toughest stage races out there. I can't say I start with a specific goal, I'll just take it one day at a time, and if an opportunity will arise, I will try to grab it", said Julian Alaphilippe of the race which at its first edition was won by a French rider, Francis Pélissier.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele