At the Tour of Slovakia (12-16 September 2018) international cycling race, the World Tour team will also be introduced for the first-time. Following payment of the start fee and meeting all requirements, the organiser’s invitation has been accepted by the Quick-Step Floors and Bora-hansgrohe teams – which during the Tour de France finalised their line-ups.
Quick-Step Floors comes to this the sixty-second year of Slovakia’s leading race with an amazing line up, but unfortunately without former world champion Philippe Gilbert who had to withdraw due to an injury picked up at the Tour. The Belgian team is so sensationally star-studded that if the participants hadn’t been confirmed by independent sources we‘d think we’re having our leg pulled! The line-up of seven riders have already enjoyed eighteen professional victories this year – including Tour de France stages and monument classics – and for some our race will be ideal preparation for the forthcoming World Championships challenge.
Julian Alaphilippe will probably be the standout team name – Ardennes Classics, winner of the La Flèche Wallonne and two stages at this year’s Tour, and of course top competition, which under our identical circumstances did not start with the Czech Etixxe team, yet paradoxically will be in the starting line-up now. He will be joined by Bob Jungels – the leading candidate to win this year’s Liége-Bastogne-Liége monument and currently thirteenth at the Tour de France, and who Quick-Step targets for a Grand Tour top-three finish. Both riders will also be key national team members at the World Championships in Innsbruck.
Classics riders attending include Patrick Lefevere and the 2018 Tour of Flanders and E3 Harelbeke winner Niki Terpstra – they should take the second, but especially the third stage. Yves Lampaert is again the national Belgium champion and winner of the Dwars door Vlaanderen. And the triumvirate of Flemish classics is concluded by a rider who has been after a Paris – Roubaix win for years: Zdeněk Štybar.
The seven is complemented by a young pair of sprinters who will take care of two or three straight races. Dutchman Fabio Jakobsen is a 21-year-old star with triumphs on Noker Koerse and Scheldeprijs. Leading the peloton and break-aways will be Davide Martinelli.
If one of those sets for whatever reason drops out, then the reserves are Eros Capecchi and James Knox who will take responsibility for leading the peloton. Only Štybar has previously competed in the Tour of Slovakia while with Telenet Fidea in 2009 and 2010. Apart from him, only Knox has raced with us two years ago – and is now a reserve. “The line-up was very happy with us. Tom Steels on the Tour that they’re very respectful of our long-term support and that the Tour of Slovakia is taken very seriously. We asked them about Gilbert with Štybar. Both boys were already here and were thrilled with the idea, but we left the rest of the team leadership and the racers to themselves – for example the inclusion of Alaphilippa and Terpstra was a pleasant surprise. And of course after his fall, Phil unfortunately won’t be coming,” said Ján Miškovský whose company janom has been supporting Quick-Step since 2012.
Bory-hansgrohe has no Quick-Step parametres at all. This season none of the sevens have won, but with us of course they could – although in the overall standings probably not. The leading name from the German cycling scene will be Daniel Oss – the good friend and team mate of Peter Sagan – who could be amongst the leaders but will struggle on the hills. The Matteo Pelucchi – Erik Baška duo are raring to go for the sprints. Erik is returning to competition after a pelvic fracture, and may get a chance to stretch his legs on some stages. Break-aways will be overseen by experienced Rüdiger Selig. The Bory team also includes Cesare Benedetti, Felix Großschartner and up-and-coming Johannes Schinnagel, who until July is cycling the Austrian Alps. The first sub is Leopold König who’ll soon return to competition – so we’ll see how he looks. Juraj Sagan won’t be starting his home race – during the Tour the plan changed and it should be Peter. What this means for the start of the Vuelte remains to be seen.
Procontinental teams Cofidis, Bardiani, Roompot, CCC, and RusVelo are set to announce their line-ups next week before the deadline. It’s already clear that Bora‘s presence in Slovakia as well as Quick-Step will attract a strong Slovak following to the stages and track, where the organizers will have a key challenge responding to this fast popularity of the event. Teams have three official support staff – sports director, masseur and mechanic – yet Quick-Step alone announced an additional ten members, so that number can still increase.
Probably the happiest man in recent days is race sports director Ľudovít Lučanič who long-dreamed of such stars in our race. “I’m delighted that five participants of this year’s Tour should join our race. I hope that Cofidis will eventually also join the team. Some names pleasantly surprised me – especially Julien Alaphilippe who leads the Tour de France and is in good form to win this year. When I checked the details of the Quick-Step team in the Tour, I found out that the Tour of Slovakia race is also taken very seriously because its main sponsor is from Slovakia: the company janom. We had expected ex-world champion Philippe Gilbert to race, but his fall at Col d’Aspet and diagnosed fractured patella necessitating six-week recuperation ruled him out. There are still six weeks before the Tour of Slovakia so the teams can still change…but anyway the world teams include riders who will not go to Vuelta, so I’m confident they’ll race with us. So Slovak cycling fans certainly have something to look forward to…”
We also approached long-term Quick-Step sponsor Ján Miškovský who four years ago was at the Tour de Pologne stage in Slovakia. Besides various cycling support in our country and smaller marketing activities with visits by team members, this is his second big event. “Every serious company must work on its marketing, and as our portfolio is international, brand awareness develops through partnering an elite global team in a sport that we also sincerely love – every year we go to the Tour de France to scale the hills on which they compete. Quick-Step in the Tour of Slovakia is the added value with which we like to support cycling. We want Slovak up-and-coming talents to be seen on our roads with world peloton stars – to motivate such riders to work hard and dream of joining such peloton. This is our goal. We hope fans come to the race in September and remember the Tour de Pologne – which with its tens of thousands of onlookers remains a fond memory.”
Ján Miškovský today informed us that in November all Quick-Step Floors members will undertake a teambuilding in the High Tatras just like after the 2012 season at Lešt. The schedule – which will also depend on the Tour of Slovakia – is being finalised and will shortly be released to media and fans. The Tour of Slovakia’s sixty-second year starts on 12 September with a prologue in Poprad, continuing on Thursday with a challenging stage to the High Tatras’ Štrbské Pleso. On Friday the peloton follows an undulating stage from Ružomberok to the stadium in Dubnica nad Váhom. Weekend racing sets off from Dubnica to Nitra and speeds on to its finale in Galanta on Sunday 16 September. Check out the full route at okoloslovenska.com with regular updates about the Tour of Slovakia a month before it starts. RTVS will broadcast the prologue live – although probably not other stages.