Tour Down Under kicks off the team’s 2016 season
David De La Cruz, Davide Martinelli, Pieter Serry, Guillaume Van Keirsbulck, Petr Vakoč, Martin Velits and Carlos Verona are the seven Etixx – Quick-Step riders to line-up for the 18th running of Australia's premier cycling event (19-24 January 2016), which will be preceded by the traditional People's Choice Classic Criterium.
With more than three weeks remaining until the start of the first World Tour event of next season, Etixx – Quick-Step sports director Rik van Slycke has finalized the seven-men team that will go to Australia in the first days of 2016 for the Tour Down Under. After the riders will stretch their legs in the Adelaide Criterium on January 17th, two days later they will return at the start line of the Tour Down Under, that will once again see the peloton climb Willunga Hill, which is expected to play a major role in the final outcome.
"We have a young team for the race. Petr Vakoč and Carlos Verona have asked us to go there, which shows how motivated they are. Taking into account his skills and the form which looks promising, Vakoč can go for a good result in the general classification, but we'll take each step at a time, without putting any pressure on him. He is well-suited to this course and he'll get the opportunity to be leader in an important race. It's part of the development process for our young riders, to give them the leadership in some events, to deal with stress and gain experience. As for Carlos, we already saw at the end of last season that he was doing very well, he feels good and wants to continue on this road he's started", said Rik van Slycke.
The inaugural World Tour race of the season, Tour Down Under will see the riders of Etixx – Quick-Step travel to Australia early, in order to adjust to the high temperatures, and Rik van Slycke hopes for a smooth transition that will eventually help the cyclists have a strong week: "A competitive team goes to Australia, a team that can get some nice results. David De La Cruz was here before and can also make himself noticed in the tough stages, while Guillaume Van Keirsbulck, Martin Velits and Pieter Serry are ready to work for the team and seize the day. As for Davide Martinelli, one of our newcomers, he'll ride pressure-free, because this will be his first pro race and we don't want to push him."
A pro since 2014, Petr Vakoč enjoyed an impressive second season in the World Tour, during which he started and completed his first Grand Tour – the Giro d'Italia – took the overall win in the Czech Cycling Tour and scored an exciting stage victory in the Tour of Britain, after holding off the peloton. His improvement on the road was significant and gave the 23-year-old more confidence, as well as the desire to lead the team in some races, with Tour Down Under being his first opportunity to do so. Following a solid block of training in Denia, Petr Vakoč goes to the southern emisphere hoping to capitalize on his form: "I wanted an early start, so that's why I decided to race the Tour Down Under for the first time. I like the course and I'm very motivated for Australia. Hopefully, this race will be a starting point for a great season."
For neo-pro Davide Martinelli – three-time U23 time trial national champion and bronze medalist in the road race at the 2015 European Championships – the event from Oz will be an important landmark in his career: "I'm excited about making my pro debut in a World Tour race. It will be a big appointment for me, because it's going to give me an idea of the level I'll face in 2016. I've heard many nice things about this race, and I can't wait for it."
The 18th edition of the Tour Down Under will start in Prospect and finish in Adelaide, after six stages and a total of 781 kilometers.