Soudal-QuickStep have announced their squad for the upcoming Giro d’Italia, with Fausto Masnada a surprise omission from the eight-man selection to support Remco Evenepoel.
The world champion, among the major favourites for the maglia rosa this month, heads up the Belgian team, which is filled out with an expected lineup of climbers and rouleurs.
Evenepoel returns to the race for the first time since his debut two years ago, where he struggled on the descents and gravel roads on his first race since a career-threatening crash at the 2021 Il Lombardia.
This time around, he comes to the Grande Partenza in Abruzzo wearing the rainbow bands as world champion, with victories at the 2022 Vuelta a España, UAE Tour, and two Liège-Bastogne-Liège titles filling his palmarès in the last 12 months.
He’s among the top favourites for final glory in Rome, and a month-long battle with the likes of Primož Roglič and Geraint Thomas is expected to unfold over the course of the race.
Evenepoel and his rivals will arrive in Italy on Wednesday, with the opening time trial on Saturday along the Adriatic coast.
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Climbers Ilan Van Wilder and Jan Hirt are among the key riders on the team, having trained with Evenepoel on the lengthy altitude training camps on Mount Teide in recent months along with Pieter Serry and Louis Vervaeke.
Masnada, who was listed in the provisional start list, was another rider who spent weeks on the Tenerife volcano, but the Giro 2019 stage winner isn’t in the final selection.
The Italian didn’t start the final stage of the recent Tour de Romandie, though no reason has yet been given for his omission from the squad.
All-rounder Mattia Cattaneo and fellow Italian, sprinter Davide Ballerini make the cut. Romandie prologue winner Josef Cerny rounds out the eight-man squad.
“Racing in Italy is always special. I love it there, I love the amazing tifosi and their passion for cycling, so I am excited about being at the start of this Giro,” Evenepoel said in a team press release.
“Of course, doing it as world champion makes it even more special, as I am keen on honouring this beautiful rainbow jersey that I will sport every day for the next three weeks. There’s no secret that I aim to do a good general classification. I can count on a very good team, we are all motivated and prepared to do our best.”
Davide Bramati will lead Evenepoel and the team from the Soudal-QuickStep team car.
“It’s time for the season’s first Grand Tour and we can’t wait to get things started, especially as we will race it with the world champion in our ranks,” the Italian directeur sportif said.
“We travel to Italy with a strong team, riders who are all determined to do a good race, show the Wolfpack spirit and help Remco get the best possible result in the general classification.”
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