Fourteen teams of eight riders have been invited to the Montepaschi Strade Bianche race, which takes place on March 5. It is the sixth edition of the race over Tuscany’s dirt roads, which began life as the Eroica in 2007.
As anticipated, Italian teams dominate the list, which was released by race organiser RCS Sport on Wednesday. ProTeams Liquigas-Cannondale and Lampre-ISD will be on the start line in Gaiole, along with home-based Pro Continental squads Acqua & Sapone, Androni Giocattoli, De Rosa-Ceramica Flaminia and Farnese Vini-Neri. The Geox-TMC squad has also earned an invitation to the 1.1 race.
There is also a place in the line-up for Team Type 1, and the American outfit has made no secret of its ambitions to earn an invitation to RCS Sport’s biggest race, the Giro d’Italia.
2008 winner Fabian Cancellara’s new Leopard Trek squad is also down to start, although there is no place on the list of 14 for teams for the Astana team of last year’s winner Maxim Iglinsky.
Cadel Evans has stated that his first race of the year will be Tirreno-Adriatico, but with BMC set to take part in the Strade Bianche, the Australian may well be tempted to begin his season a few days earlier. He took a memorable victory over similar terrain to Montalcino during last year’s Giro d’Italia.
The race between Gaiole in Chianti and Siena will take in eight sections of dirt roads, which account for 55 of the race’s total 190 kilometres. As ever, the 11.5km-long Monte Santa Maria section, which includes two climbs, is expected to cause the first major selection, leaving the strongest to battle it out for victory over the remaining 50km.
The 14 teams invited to the Montepaschi Strade Bianche are Acqua & Sapone, Androni Giocattoli, BMC Racing Team, Colnago-CSF Inox, De Rosa-Ceramica Flaminia, Farnese Vini-Neri, Geox-TMC, HTC-Highroad, Lampre-ISD, Liquigas-Cannondale, Omega Pharma-Lotto, Garmin-Cervélo, Leopard Trek and Team Type 1.