Sagan chasing first win as world champion at Strade Bianche

Tinkoff include Gatto, Kreuziger and Bennati in strong team for dirt roads of Tuscany

Peter Sagan will lead the Tinkoff team at Saturday’s Strade Bianche race as he chases his first victory in the world champion’s rainbow jersey.

Sagan has finished second twice on the Tuscan dirt road race and was second in Saturday’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad after a spell of training at altitude. He will have the support of a strong Tinkoff team, with Oscar Gatto, Roman Kreuziger, Daniele Bennati, Tour Down Under stage winner Jay McCarthy, Adam Blythe, Maciej Bodnar and Manuele Boaro in the Tinkoff line-up.

Sagan will face some fierce opposition, with 2015 Strade Bianche winner Zdenek Stybar leading the Etixx-QuickStep team and Greg Van Avermaet leading BMC. Other rivals include Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Fabian Cancellara (Trek Segafredo). This year’s Strade Bianche starts and finishes in the centre of stunning Siena, with the riders facing 176km and nine sectors of dirt roads.

“I have already raced Strade Bianche several times and I must say that I really like it, it’s a really unique race. The terrain is close to my heart and if all goes to plan on the dirt roads I could do well again here,” Sagan said via a team press release.

Kreuziger knows his climbing skills will play a key part in controlling the racing on the rolling Tuscan roads and dirt tracks.

“Strade Bianche is a demanding race because of the climbs as well as the tough gravel sectors,” he explained. “You have to be attentive and prepared for anything during the entire five hours. Last year, the wind was a factor to take into consideration, and weather conditions could come into play again this year. Unlike other races, you can't relax, thinking you can hide in the first 100 kilometres and race afterwards. I consider it to be very good preparation for the big Classics, not only in terms of building your form but also on how you move inside the group and how you handle the small details."

Sport director Patxi Vila explained that victory is an objective for Tinkoff after Sagan went close to victory in the early season races.

“It’s a pretty special race Strade Bianche, even though it doesn’t yet have the history of some of the other classics it is becoming an important race in the calendar,” he explained “It’s a nice objective for our team and we go into the race with a strong team led by Peter Sagan.

“Peter has shown previously that he can fight for the win here, and although it’s still early in the season he showed last weekend despite only just returning to racing from a period of training that he’s already in good shape. He will be supported here by riders who could also play their part in the outcome if the situation on the road changes, including Oscar Gatto and Roman Kreuziger.”

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