The BMC Racing Team has taken a divide and conquer approach to the weekend's races in Italy, naming Cadel Evans as the leader for the Strade Bianche on Saturday, while Philippe Gilbert will head up the squad in Roma Maxima the next day.
While Gilbert is a past winner of the Strade Bianche (2011), he opted to leave the leadership to Evans, who prevailed on a stage of the 2010 Giro d'Italia which covered some of the same dirt - or mud - roads, in favor of Roma Maxima.
"I chose this race because in Strade Bianche, we already have a lot of leaders," Gilbert said. "I have never done it, so it will be a good experience for me. But my form is good, so I will be looking to get the best result I can."
BMC will field new recruit Samuel Sánchez in both races, along with Manuel Quinziato, Darwin Atapuma, Dominik Nerz, and Larry Warbasse. Evans, Steve Morabito and Michel Schär will be replaced by Gilbert, Yannick Eijssen and Ben Hermans on Sunday.
Directeur sportif Valerio Piva is counting on a trio of riders for the Strade Bianche, which has ten sectors of white gravel roads in the 197km route, with an uphill finish in Siena. "Cadel Evans, who has already won a stage of the Giro d'Italia on this course ... will be our leader," Piva said. "Certainly Samuel Sánchez seems to be in good shape and I will give him a chance ... But also Michael Schär also did a great race here last year and is very motivated."
For Roma Maxima, Fabio Baldato will direct the line-up led by Gilbert. "Our leaders for sure will be Gilbert and Sánchez," Baldato said. "But others – like Darwin Atapuma, Yannick Eijssen, Ben Hermans, Dominik Nerz, Manuel Quinziato and Larry Warbasse – will be ready for attacks on the climbs."
Atapuma will make his European debut with the team, following up on his first race with BMC at the Tour de San Luis. "In Argentina, I was able to do very good work and now I am reaping the benefits of it," he said. "In the next two races – my first ones in Europe with the BMC Racing Team – I want to reach a goal to stay close to the team leaders and help them to get good results."
BMC Racing Team for Strade Bianche:
Darwin Atapuma, Cadel Evans, Steve Morabito, Dominik Nerz, Manuel Quinziato, Samuel Sánchez, Michael Schär, Larry Warbasse.
BMC Racing Team for Roma Maxima:
Darwin Atapuma, Yannick Eijssen, Philippe Gilbert, Ben Hermans, Dominik Nerz, Manuel Quinziato, Samuel Sánchez, Larry Warbasse.