OPQS to Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco
Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team has announced the selection that will take part in 837km Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco, taking place from April 1st until April 6th. The six-stage, 837km UCI WorldTour race ends with an important 24km time trial in Beasain, which includes some tough climbing sections of 7.33%, 6.92%, and 12.14% gradients.
The stages are relatively short, with no stage more than 170km. However, the race is challenging from the start. Stage 1 features six categorized climbs, including two Category 3, three Category 2 and a lone Category 1 climb. The stage is not a summit finish, but will still test the legs of the peloton before a potential sprint finale. Stage two has five climbs, but also may be one for the sprinters as the finish is again flat. Stage 3 is the first summit finish of the race. The riders will ascend Category 2 Alto de La Lejana (5.74%) after already climbing four categorized climbs earlier in the stage. Stage 4 is another summit finish, only this time on Category 1 Alto de Usartza (6.71%). Finally, the peloton must conquer a tough final mountain stage before the closing time trial. 166km Stage 5 features 10 categorized climbs from kilometer 11.5 until kilometer 160.3, and the peloton must then descend Category 2 Alto de Olaberria (12.27%) before reaching another flat finish.
OPQS rider Gianni Meersman was scheduled to race, but is unable to participate due to Gastroenteritis. He will be replaced by Carlos Verona.
"I was looking for Stage 1 and 2 as targets, like Catalunya when I won both stages," Meersman said. "For me it's a shame, but I wish all my teammates good luck and am sure they will do their best for a good result."
"Basically our tactic will remain about the same, even though our sprinter Meersman is sick," Sport Director Brian Holm said. "For the GC we have Tony Martin and Peter Velits. In the GC we have to watch out for riders such as Samuel Sanchez, who won last year, and then Alberto Contador and Richie Porte. We will hang on with riders like that in the mountains and see what can happen. I think the last stage will be a good time trial for Tony and Peter, and even Dries Devenyns. The time trial is normally tricky at this race. It's up and down. But last year Tony was 3rd in the time trial, so we're going to be close again I think. Tony and Peter will be leaders for the time trial. If Peter is good in terms of his legs, he can finish in the top 10, that's for sure. He was 10th at Paris-Nice and he can do it again. This is a parcour that suits both our GC riders. To support them we have a strong and solid team."