World champion Julian Alaphilippe will begin his 2021 season at the Tour de la Provence, which gets underway on Thursday in the south of France.
The Frenchman is joined in the Deceuninck-QuickStep selection by the backbone of the team’s cobbled Classics unit, with Kasper Asgreen, Zdenek Stybar and Yves Lampaert all featuring.
The four-day stage race will be Deceuninck-QuickStep’s first competitive outing of the year following the cancellation and postponement of a number of early-season events, including the Tour Down Under and Vuelta a San Juan. Deceuninck-QuickStep were not among the WorldTour teams to participate in last week’s Étoile de Bessèges.
“With so many races cancelled or postponed, we had to make some changes in our line-up, that’s why we have a Classics-orientated team for next week,” said Deceuninck-QuickStep directeur sportif Geert Van Bondt.
“We’re happy to get the season underway and to have Julian show his rainbow jersey for the first time this year in France. The guys are feeling good, they are all motivated, and we are confident that this solid squad is capable of fighting for some nice results. Our main goal is to give our best there and get back that racing feeling that we love and have missed so much.”
The Deceuninck-QuickStep team in Provence is completed by Davide Ballerini, Rémi Cavagna and talented 21-year-old Belgian Mauri Vansevenant.
Alaphilippe had started his season in South America for each of the past three seasons, but the cancellation of the Vuelta a San Juan and the Tour Colombia means the Frenchman will race exclusively in Europe in the early part of 2021.
The Tour de la Provence will be Alaphilippe’s first race since he crashed out of the winning break at the Tour of Flanders last October, sustaining a double fracture of his right hand. It will also be his first race on home roads in the rainbow jersey of world champion.
Alaphilippe’s early-season programme is also expected to include Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Tirreno-Adriatico, while he is slated to return to the Tour of Flanders in April.
The Tour de la Provence gets underway in Aubagne on Thursday.
The key stage will come on Saturday, with a finish at Chalet Reynard, six kilometres from the summit of Mont Ventoux. Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers), Aleksandr Vlasov (Astana-Powertech) and Enric Mas (Movistar) are among the riders expected on the start line.
Cyclingnews will have full coverage of the French stage race, with stage reports, news and interviews.
Deceuninck-QuickStep for Tour de la Provence (February 11-14)
Julian Alaphilippe (Fra), Kasper Asgreen (Den), Davide Ballerini (Ita), Rémi Cavagna (Fra), Yves Lampaert (Bel), Zdenek Stybar (Cze) and Mauri Vansevenant (Bel)