Moreno Moser and Peter Sagan finished first and second at the 2013 edition of the Strade Bianche and Cannondale has confirmed that the duo will team up again this year to target a second consecutive victory.
Sagan's past as a mountain bike rider and Moser's climbing skills make them a formidable tactical pairing for the hilly race on the rolling Tuscan dirt roads.
Last year Moser attacked alone on the penultimate section of dirt road and then dropped the remains of an earlier breakaway to win alone in the Piazza del Campo in Siena. Sagan controlled the likes of Fabian Cancellara and Greg Van Avermaet before winning the dash to the final corner and the downhill sprint, six seconds behind his teammate.
Sagan went on to confirm his Classic credentials with second place at Milan-San Remo and the Tour of Flanders, and victory at Ghent-Wevelgem. His stage victory and aggressive racing at this year's Tour of Oman indicated he is on similar form and so is arguably the favourite for Strade Bianche.
The Cannondale team has named Strade Bianche as the 'first big event' of the team's season and selected a strong team to help Sagan and Moser. The Cannondale riders have been training in Tuscany this week to ensure they are ready for Strade Bianche and next week's Tirreno-Adriatico.
“The Strade Bianche is the real test of my condition after two months of races and hard training,” Sagan said in a press release from the Cannondale team.
“This race is exciting and it has all the characteristic of a Classic race, even without the cobbles, it's hard, unpredictable and challenging.
"With Moreno we did a great team play last year. I think this could be the key this year to winning again. There are a lot of rivals who have already shown they're in very condition but we’ll do whatever is possible to beat them.”
The next great of the Moser dynasty?
Moreno Moser was hailed as the next great rider of the Moser dynasty after his victory in 2013 but faltered during the spring and ended his season early due to a fatigue. He has so far had a quiet start to the 2014 season but has honed his condition at the Tour de San Luis and the Tour of Oman.
He is quietly confident that he has the form to do well on Saturday.
“I’m very happy to be back racing on this roads. They remind me of the best moment of my career so far," he said.
"I really like the unique characteristic of the race. Right now the feelings I have after the Tour of Oman, make me confident that I can be amongst the best on Saturday. My form has growth gradually since the winter and I'm at a good level."
"Of course, training is different than racing. Now I need to feeling of the adrenalin flowing, that you get when you have real chance of success. I think I'm on the track to savour that feeling again."
Sagan and Moser will have the support of new signing Oscar Gatto, who is also suited to the rolling dirt roads of the Strade Bianche race. Also in the Cannondale team are Maciej Bodnar, Kristjan Koren, Alan Marangoni, plus two young riders Matthias Krizek and Alberto Bettiol.
The Strade Bianche race starts in San Gimignano and ends in Siena after 200km of racing and 45.4km of dirt roads along the route.