Julian Alaphilippe will lead the line for the Wolfpack at the two French races.

Fresh off a strong ride at the demanding Tour Colombia, Julian Alaphilippe is ready to make his first European outing of the season in just a couple of days, when he’ll line up at the start of the Ardèche Classic (29 February), a 184.4km hilly race which is very likely to be decided on one of the last two climbs: Saint-Romain de Lerps (8.1km, 5.9%) and Val d’Enfer (1.4km, 10.8%).

From there, just twenty-four hours later, he will take on another testing race, the Drôme Classic (203 kilometers), where the quick succession of climbs in the last part of the course – Côte des Roberts (3.9km, 5%), Côte de Grane (1.7km, 5.6%) and Mur d’Alex (1km, 9.3%) – are sure to whittle down the peloton and make a serious selection before the finish in Livron-sur-Drôme.

Top 10 overall at last week’s Volta ao Algarve after an impressive display on the climbs, João Almeida will also be part of the Deceuninck – Quick-Step squad for the two French races, together with neo-pro Andrea Bagioli, Rémi Cavagna, Dries Devenyns – who earlier this season powered to a memorable victory at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race – Ian Garrison and Mikkel Honoré.

“We are going into the weekend with a good team that will give us several options to be in the mix for a nice result. Of course, Julian is our leader as the parcours suits him perfectly, but we can count also on other guys who have enjoyed a strong start to the season and can be up there. The two races aren’t easy and hardly give you a moment of respite, but we’ve had some good results here in the past and are motivated to try to repeat them and keep the team’s excellent momentum going”, said sports director Davide Bramati.

Our road wolves