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Tuscan Dust: 2020 Strade Bianche PEZ Preview

Strade Bianche Race Preview: The Tuscan race was one of the first to be cancelled due to Covid-19 and is now the first Classic on the reorganised UCI WorldTour calendar. Back on the road with the Strade Bianche PEZ Preview.

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Double for Alaphilippe?

In its 14th year, the Strade Bianche maybe the young pup of the season’s big races, but it has blossomed into a Classic with a top list of winners, with Fabian Cancellara, Philippe Gilbert, Michal Kwiatkowski and last year Julian Alaphilippe on the roll of honour. The rescheduled Strade Bianche has all the excitement of the Tuscan ‘White Roads’ plus the uncertainty of the ‘new’ season.

There is sure to be dust on Saturday

Il Corso
The Strade Bianche may only be 184 kilometres long, but with a course that has very little flat roads and with its 63 kilometres of gravel spread over the 11 sectors makes for a tough day. This year’s race will be different as the weather forecast is for temperatures in the 30’s and no chance of rain. Dust is going to be on the menu for everyone.

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The 2020 Strade Bianche profile

The first sector kicks in after 11 kilometres, and then followed immediately by a 5.8 kilometre section at Ville di Corsano which ramps up at 10%. La Piana is 5.5 kilometres long and comes before the paved climb to Montalcino which is 4 kilometres at 5%. Before the half-way point of the race and the feed-zone, there is 20 kilometres of gravel.

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Hills, gravel and dust

The next sector in Asciano comes with 54 kilometres to go, but this 11.5km sector will cause the main splits in the race. Sector 9 is only 800 meters long and steep enough for attacks. Next up are the climbs of the Colle Pinzuto, 2.4km at 15%,kilometres and Le Tolfe at 18%, the race will now enter the final 15 kilometres.

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Wout van Aert will remember the Via Santa Caterina in 2018

The famous Via Santa Caterina with its 16% rise to the finish can be decisive as it brings the race to the finish line in the Piazza del Campo. The Piazza finish will be a quiet affair as there will be no fans to witness the winner hold his hands aloft.

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The Piazza del Campo will be a quiet finish

Il Protagonisti
This is a tricky one as no one knows who has weathered the best during the Covid-19 break and this being the first proper race for most of the peloton, the legs and head need to click back into action. In saying that, the cream always comes to the top and the stars always shine.

Trying to pick a winner is always tough, but here are our thoughts on who will be the top men, in no particular order:

Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) will be lining up for the third time in Tuscany, this could be his time for the top step after finishing on the podium on the las two occasions. Going by his Strava, the Belgian has been putting in the miles. Mud would probably suit the ex-World cyclo-cross champion, but dust and gravel is still within his speciality. “Since the beginning of June, I have been specifically working towards the restart of the season. We put the finishing touches at training camp in Tignes. My goal is to be good right away and to keep it as long as possible,” Van Aert said last week.

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Wout looking for the win in 2020

Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) rides the Strade Bianche for the first time on Saturday. The current cyclo-cross World champion has the class, as we saw in the Amstel Gold Race last year and many other races, so being a Strade Bianche virgin won’t be a disadvantage.

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Strade Bianche – A bit different from Zwift

The Deceuninck – Quick-Step team will line-up with the big guns. Last year’s winner Julian Alaphilippe and Zdenek Stybar, winner in 2015 will be the men to watch. Waiting in the wings will be Bob Jungels who is possibly looking for a team change at the end of the year.

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Two in a row for Alaphilippe – Or another Deceuninck – Quick-Step rider

Greg Van Avermaet (CCC) is another rider who needs to show his class as he will need a new team (or team sponsor) for 2021. Van Avermaet will be at the head of the action, that is for sure, but his home Classics are more important. Van Avermaet is eager and wants to finish high again on Saturday. “The Strade Bianche has always been one of my favourite races. That this is now my first race after the mandatory corona break is quite special. I hope to do as well as in the other years that I started there. In any case, I remained motivated during and after the lockdown and during my training camp in Livigno I felt I was growing into my better shape.”

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A Strade Bianche win would be handy for the palmarès

Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) has everything needed to win Strade Bianche. The triple World road champion is undoubtably a big star, but the compressed season has many goals: Tour, Giro and Classics. The other question is. “Does he still have the same flame?”

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A good start to the season

Tiesj Benoot (Sunweb) won in the mud of 2018, but he’s looking forward to the dust of Saturday: “Strade Bianche is the race that suits me best at this level. I’ve started it four times and have already finished four times near the front, but it will be a different edition than in March. The temperatures are completely different, which gives an extra dimension. I really can’t estimate my chances. I’ve not seen the other riders in action for a long time. It feels a bit like it’s ‘Opening Weekend’ again. It’s exciting.”

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Benoot: “It’s exciting”

It has been 9 years since Philippe Gilbert (Lotto Soudal) won the Strade Bianche, he was riding for the Lotto team (Omega Pharma-Lotto) back then, maybe he can pull it off… again.

Siena - Italia - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme - Montepaschi Strade Bianche - Eroica Toscana. - Philippe Gilbert (Team Omega Pharma - Lotto - Canyon) - foto Claudio Minardi/Cor Vos ©2011
2011 and 2020 for Gilbert?

Double winner (2014 and 2017) Michal Kwiatkowski (Ineos) would probably like to equal Fabian Cancellara’s three wins, but is he more interested in next week’s Milan-San Remo?

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A third Strade Bianche for Kwiatkowski

Alberto Bettiol (EF Pro Cycling): Winner of De Ronde van Vlaanderen will want to show that his Flanders win was no piece of luck. A nobody would never win in the top Belgian race of the year, so Bettiol has the pedigree.

Flanders champ – Albert Bettiol

Ex-Belgian champion Oliver Naesen (AG2R La Mondiale) is a Classics man through and through, although the steep climbs of Tuscany might be too much. Can you compare the steep climbs of Tuscany to those of Flanders? “I’m very happy to be racing Strade Bianche for the first time. This is the perfect opportunity. Usually the race takes place the day before Paris-Nice and I just watch it on TV.” he said on the Lotto Soudal website.

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A true Classicsman – Oliver Naesen

Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) was second last year and will obviously want to move up to the top step of the podium. Financial problems have been ongoing at Astana and transfers have been mentioned for the Dane, another rider wanting to make a show.

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A step higher on the podium for Jakob Fuglsang

Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates) is a bit of an outside bet, but he has what is needed to win on the Tuscan white roads. He has a strong sprint at the end of the race, although the 16% ramp of Via Santa Caterina before the finish in the Piazza del Campo might dull his spark.

Ulissi – Outside bet

Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) could be a surprise in Tuscany. He is one of the new, ‘young guns’ on the block and is heading for stardom in the Grand Tours, but he is keen to win races. Don’t forget he was Slovenian U23 and Elite cyclo-cross champion.

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A ‘Young Gun’ with more experience – Tadej Pogačar

He maybe one of the ‘old men’ of the peloton, but Vincenzo Nibali (Trek-Segafredo) can still win races. He maybe looking at Saturday’s race as a warm-up for the season, but he can win one-day races as well as Grand Tours – A man never to be ignored.

The ‘Shark’ can still bite

# Keep it PEZ for everything Strade Bianche – Race Report on Saturday and more news in EUROTRASH Monday. And for live TV go to SteepHillTV. #

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