2018 Strade Bianche Preview
In only its second year as a World Tour race, Strade Bianche has become one of the most eagerly anticipated races of the season. Its white (gravel) roads, demanding parcours, and a finish in the central plaza of Siena makes this race a genuine one day classic. The race itself is still in its infancy, compared to the other major one day classics such as Liege, Paris-Roubaix and Ronde Van Vlaanderen, but in only its 12th edition this year, Strade Bianche is one of the most hotly contested races of the Spring. Just scanning over the list of former winners of this race paints the picture for the style of this unique Spring classic, and the grit that is needed to win the race over the white roads of Tuscany. Former winners include Fabian Cancellara (2008,2012,2016), Michal Kwiatkowski (2014, 2017), Philippe Gilbert (2011) and Zdenek Stybar (2015). Big riders come to Siena on a mission, and big riders come away from the walled city with the chocolates (and World Tour points).
The 2018 edition is 184km in length, with 63km of that being on the famous white roads. To win this race you need to be somewhat a jack of all trades. Climbing, descending, a punchy finish, good bike handling, wet/cold weather sturdy, and luck are all desired traits to be within shot of taking the top step of this particular race. Wet/cold weather is expected for Saturday so, like many of the former winners, I’m tipping a hard man to be victorious.
Michal Kwiatkowski - The defending champion is already in sizzling form, clearly staying hot from his super 2017 season where he also won Milan-San Remo and Classica San Sebastian. He has already hit the ground running in 2018, taking the overall and two stages at the Volta ao Algarve in Portugal last month. He comes in as the leader of Team Sky with strong support around him; expect the young Italian sensation Gianni Moscon to be there deep in the race to offer any assistance to the former road World Champion.
Greg Van Avermaet- No better way to describe GVA than there or thereabouts whenever he pins the numbers on. A rider who always seems to be in good shape, with his early season form not suggesting otherwise. Picked up a stage win at the Tour of Oman last month and was at the pointy end of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday when the racing got grippy. No results to write home about from the Belgium Opening weekend for the Olympic champion, but it’s clear the form is there to do damage on Saturday. A genuine hard man who will be looking to take his first win at Strade Bianche after taking second place twice in 2017 and 2015.
Peter Sagan- It’s surprising that we haven’t seen Sagan win this race before. Or do we just forget that he isn’t superman? He was unreal at the Tour Down Under in January, in the scorching South Australian heat, but this will be his first race since TDU. His form is a little unknown, but the three-time World Champion is a rider that, when he pins the numbers on, you know he means business. Not unlike GVA, he has been second twice here and will be looking to break his hoodoo on the gravel roads. Sagan should have new-recruit Daniel Oss for company late in the piece.
Tom Dumoulin- No longer just a specialist against the clock, having had the greatest success on the roads of Italy winning the Giro last year. He will be surely looking for more Italian delight on Saturday. Fourth at Classica San Sebastian and winner of the BinckBank Tour (former Eneco Tour) in 2017; he is now a man that can do it all. The Dutchman was fifth at this race last year, and comes in with some solid form. Bad luck was the flavour of the month for the Time Trial World Champion in Abu Dhabi, and he will be hoping to turn his luck around when he takes to the start in Siena. Riding on anger is always a danger for your rivals, look out!
Wout Van Aert- Somewhat of an outside favourite, but the 23 -year-old from Belgium is a rider the other favourites should be worried about. The Cylco-cross World Champion is no stranger to the dirt and wet, miserable, conditions - which makes him a genuine danger for the likes of GVA and Kwiato. He’s won plenty of professional road races in Belgium, so to assuage any readers concerns re his racing nous, he goes alright. A World Tour race like this, however, is another kettle of fish. He showed good form at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, going over the top of the Muur with a select group of favourites in the finale, so he knows how to match it with the big boys in the big races. Just keep an eye out for him.
Others to watch- Gilbert, Bardet, Nibali, Benoot, Haas, Stybar, Moser, Felline
1- Greg Van Avermaet
2- Michal Kwiatkowski
3- Peter Sagan
See you back at the social club,