Sep Vanmarcke, third last weekend at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, and Rigoberto Uran will lead the charge for Cannondale-Drapac at this weekend’s Strade Bianche and the pair will be supported by Alberto Bettiol, Simon Clarke, Alex Howes, Sebastian Langeveld, Toms Skujins, and Dylan Van Baarle.
“The team is strong and very motivated,” said Directeur Sportif Fabrizio Guidi. “The race has a special charm and suits to the characteristics of our group. There are strong team contenders focused on their single leader. We have several solutions to counter the favorites. Rigo and Sep are our leaders, and strategy will be more than important. We have to be smart, but we have a plan. We definitely race to win.”
All told, there are 11 gravel sectors this year, two more than in 2016, totalling 62 kilometres, or a third of the 175-kilometre parcours in hilly Tuscany.
“It’s a special race, because it’s heroic, even though it’s only existed since 2007. It’s special to race on the gravel roads, and it’s a very nice and hard parcours,” Vanmarcke said. “I have only participated once, and finished fourth, so it suits me.
“I just race it like a cobbled classic,” he added. “It’s important to start the sections in front, because on the gravel sections the peloton will stretch out. Also with flat tires and crashes, it’s very important to stay focused from start to finish.”
The Monte Sante Marie is the toughest sector, at 11.5 kilometres of white gravel road. It’s mainly uphill, with both sharp climbs and descents. Despite the tough sectors en route, the race is still often decided near the finish in Siena where there is a tough climb with 900 metres to go.
“Our team looks really good for the upcoming Italian races,” said Directeur Sportif Tom Southam. “More than just the fact that we have options in the race is the fact that in Sep and Rigo we have two guys who inspire great performances from the whole team. Combine that with the quality bike riders they have backing them up and they should be a formidable team.
“It might seem like a lifetime, but it was only actually a few months ago that these guys put Rigo on the podium of a Monument in Italy, so they can do a serious job here.”
Cannondale-Drapac for Strade Bianche
Dylan Van Baarle