Mitchelton-Scott with options for Strade Bianche

Williams aiming high in Italy

The Mitchelton-Scott women's team will start Strade Bianche this Saturday with a balanced squad led by Georgia Williams, Gracie Elvin and Amanda Spratt.

Annemiek van Vleuten skips the race with the Dutchwoman riding the Track Worlds on home soil in Apeldoorn but sports director Gene Bates believes his riders can still make the race.

"Missing Annemiek is obviously something we will notice, but I think we have a really well-rounded team here – more of an opportunistic team than a clear favourite but sometimes that's nice going into the race as a bit of an underdog with nothing to lose," said Bates.

New Zealand road champion Williams and Spratt will have leadership roles for the race and Bates expects to duo to spring a surprise or two.

"Spratty is getting better and better. She is targeting later in the spring, but we are really pleasantly surprised at how well she was going already at opening weekend so we can expect to see a lot from her. Also, Georgia Williams is super strong," he said.

With snow and cold conditions expected for the race, Williams believes the weather will play a role in the outcome of the race.

"It will definitely be a race of attrition with the constant undulating course and the weather conditions predicted are also going to add another element of difficulty. The key will be trying to survive with numbers going into the final," she said.

Bates likewise is looking to the weather as a new factor in deciding the race for 2018 but is encouraging his riders to arrive in the final in numbers and contest for the victory.

"It really comes down to what race it is. It could be completely feral in terms of the weather which could throw up a whole new set of challenges come race day, but it is the kind of race where it will dwindle down and if you have numbers in the final then you can we a lot with that," said Bates.

"After the feed, there's a longer gravel section with a really solid climb in it. It depends on what the wind is doing there, we have seen the race completely blow to pieces in previous years and other years it's been a head wind and it's stayed together for a lot longer."

Climber Lucy Kennedy, sprinter Sarah Roy and 23-year-old Jenelle Crooks round out the team for Mitchelton-Scott at Strade Bianche. 

Mitchelton-Scott for Strade Bianche: Jenelle Crooks, Gracie Elvin, Lucy Kennedy, Sarah Roy, Amanda Spratt and Georgia Williams.

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