Quick-Step Floors will take on the white gravel roads of Strade Bianche with two former winners in the Belgian squad's seven-rider roster. Philippe Gilbert, who won the race in 2011, and Zdenek Stybar, who won in 2015, will each line up with ambitions of adding another title to their palmares.
Both will be protected in the team, which also includes Eros Capecchi, Fernando Gaviria, Iljo Keisse, Maximilian Schachmann and Pieter Serry. The team once again find themselves with a wealth of options, just as they did during Tuesday's Le Samyn, where Quick-Step finished first and second with Niki Terpstra and Gilbert, respectively.
"We make no secret of the fact that we have several guys capable of winning on Saturday, but it won't be easy, because there's a star-studded field out there with many strong riders all wanting the top prize," said team director Davide Bramati.
The 184km race includes 11 gravel sections totaling 62km before the riders will battle up the final cobbled climb to the finish in the scenic and historic Piazza del Campo. Gilbert tweeted about his ambitions to be the first rider to enter the piazza.
Throwback to 2012: still the fastest @StradeBianche in its recent history. I will return to this magnificent race on Saturday and give it another go #StriveForFive#TheWolfpack#WayToRidepic.twitter.com/Ip7ShXbLhg— PHILIPPE GILBERT (@PhilippeGilbert) February 28, 2018
Aside from the climbs and the gravel, the weather could throw another obstacle at the riders as temperatures are forecast just above freezing in the morning, with some precipitation also expected throughout the day.
"Unlike other years, the weather could play a bigger role this time, as we expect low temperatures and rain during the race, but we'll do our best to kick-start the month of March on the right foot," Bramati said.
Quick-Step Floors for Strade Bianche: Eros Capecchi, Fernando Gaviria, Philippe Gilbert, Iljo Keisse, Maximilian Schachmann, Pieter Serry, Zdenek Stybar