• Elia Viviani (R) and Julian Alaphilippe. (Getty)Source: Getty
As a Belgian team facing a Belgium start, Deceuninck-Quick Step has big ambitions for the Tour de France from the 6 July opening stage in Brussels to the finish in Paris 23 days later.
Cycling Central

27 Jun 2019 - 9:33 AM  UPDATED 27 Jun 2019 - 12:19 PM

Shouldering the burden of delivering stage victories will be the effervescent puncheur Julian Alaphilippe and sprinter Elia Viviani.

For the fifth time in history, the Tour de France kicks off from Belgium, which gets to host two full stages - both starting and finishing in Brussels - before moving across the border, where a mix of flat, hilly and mountainous stages (in the Vosges, Alps, and Pyrenees) will shape up the general classification before the iconic finish on Champs-Élysées.

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Alaphilippe, who leads the UCI rankings, is the reigning KOM champion picking up two stage wins en route to sealing a memorable triumph in the polka-dot jersey.

He returns to the start with Classic victories in Milano-Sanremo, Strade Bianche and Flèche Wallonne.

“Julian is a little bit of a one-man army, a winner who last year took the climber’s jersey in spectacular fashion, sports director Tom Steels said. "With him, you are sure to be surprised.

"There are some stages, even in the first week, that really suits him, and when the course does suit him, he is one of the best in the world, so we will look for stage wins on those days."

Viviani returns to the Tour a different rider after making his debut in 2014. He will look to add a victory to his combined eight wins at the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España.

“We need to remember that it is his first time in years at the Tour," Steels said. "He has proved himself as a Grand Tour stage winner, but this is the Tour and with a full team behind him, he will need to stay calm and can hopefully take his opportunity with both hands.

"Maybe it will be difficult to go for the green jersey, but we will see that by day, as he’ll target stage wins.”

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While Alaphilippe hunts on his own, Viviani will rely on Kasper Asgreen, Yves Lampaert, Michael Morkov and Argentinean Champion Maximiliano Richeze for lead-out support.

General classification hopes will lie with the talented but young 24-year-old Enric Mas who is there to learn the ropes under the wing of Dries Devenyns.

“He’s our GC guy, but at the same time, this is his Tour de France debut and while he proved in the Vuelta [second overall and the best young rider] that he can maintain his condition for three weeks, this is the Tour and it’s about learning," Steels said. "It is hard to explain what this race is until you have been part of it. Everything is harder in the Tour and he needs to understand that."

Deceuninck-Quick Step for the Tour de France
Julian Alaphilippe, Elia Viviani, Enric Mas, Dries Devenyn, Kasper Asgreen, Yves Lampaert, Michael Morkov and Maximiliano Richeze.