Strade Bianche, Track Worlds, Paris-Nice and more - Weekend Preview

A look ahead to this weekend's racing, including Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen, Tour de Taiwan and GP Industria & Artigianato

UCI Track World Championships

The UCI Track World Championships in London continue through Sunday, when the women's sprint will be decided along with the men's keirin, the women's omnium and the men's Madison. But before the rainbow jerseys for those events are handed out on the final day, riders will compete in six sessions on Friday and Saturday.

Cyclingnews will be on the ground throughout the weekend bringing comprehensive coverage, including news results and photos from the Lee Valley Velodrome.

Four gold medals will be up for grabs on Friday. There are three sessions across the day, starting at 9 a.m., 2:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.

The women's team pursuit finals will be a highlight of the third session, with the Team USA women hoping to gain their first-ever gold medal. The men's individual pursuit is also set to excite the crowds. The women's 500m time trial and men's points race will also be decided in the evening session.

The omnium is the main event on Saturday, with the first of the six events for the men and women starting at 10 a.m. Mark Cavendish will be aiming for gold there as well as making a statement for his inclusion on Great Britain's Rio Olympic team. A second session starting at 2:45 p.m. sees the men's sprint get underway with the omnium continuing for both the men and women. The evening session, again starting 7 p.m., features the men's omnium medal ceremony along with the finals of the men's sprint and the women's points race.

Mark Cavendish on his pursuit bike in Manchester
Mark Cavendish on his pursuit bike in Manchester (Getty Images).

Strade Bianche - live coverage on Saturday

The relatively new - but increasingly popular - Italian one-day race will take over the white dirt roads of Tuscany Saturday for the men's and women's editions. Fabian Cancellara will be attempting to win his third title - and possibly have a section of gravel road named after him - when the race finishes in Siena, while the women will begin their inaugural Women's WorldTour there.

Cyclingnews will be on the scene in Siena to provide live coverage throughout the men's race, and although there will be no TV coverage of the women's race, Cyclingnews will have the first-and-only post-race video interviews from Voxwomen.

The 176km men's route includes more than 50km of dirt roads, with the 'strade bianche' tracks twisting through the Tuscan hills in a loop south of Siena. The resulting race profile is like a race on the pave of Northern France or Flanders with the hills of an Ardennes Classic.

Cancellara won the race in 2008 and 2012, and as his career winds down he'd like to cement his place in the race's growing lore by adding a third title. Defending champion Zdenek Stybar (Etixx-QuickStep) is on good form but will face tough competition from Astana's Vincenzo Nibali, Tinkoff's Peter Sagan, and BMC's duo of Greg van Avermaet, who recently won Omloop Het Niuewsblad and Taylor Phinney, who has raced just five days so far this year. Movistar's Alejandro Valverde, third last year, is another wildcard to throw in the deck.

Women's defending champion Megan Guarnier will be on the start line in Siena, as will her Boels Dolman teammate and world Champion Lizzie Armitstead, who just won Omloop Het Nieuwsblad Elite Women. Wiggle High5 will field Elisa Longo Borghini, Rabo Liv will send powerhouse duo Anna van der Breggen and Pauline Ferrand-Prevot, while Cervelo Bigla’s Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio will also be in action.

Tiffany Cromwell is part of the Canyon-SRAM team that also includes Lisa Brennauer and Alena Amialiusik. Emma Johansson will be part of the strong Wiggle High5 team and showed her form by finishing third at Omloop. Among the Italian riders looking for success on home roads are Rossella Ratto, Eva Lechner and Valentina Scandolara (Cylance Pro Cycling).

Rain is forecast for Saturday with a strong south-easterly wind also likely to play a factor in the race and making Strade Bianche even more spectacular but even more difficult to win.

The inaugural women's Strade Bianche gets underway from San Gimignano
The inaugural women's Strade Bianche gets underway from San Gimignano (Bettini)

Paris-Nice - live coverage on Sunday

The race to the sun, dubbed so because it runs from the colder, early spring climate in Paris to the usually sunny and much warmer Mediterranean town of Nice over the course of a week. Starting on Sunday in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, the second WorldTour race of the year after the Tour Down Under will cover 1,290km over seven road stages and a prologue. There are two true mountain days, two hilly stages and three anticipated sprint finishes. The race ends Sunday, March 13, with a 141km stage that starts and finishes in Nice.

Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) will return to the race after a six-year absence, hoping to build his form ahead of his attempt to wrest back his Tour de France title from Team Sky's double winner, Chris Froome. Froome will skip Paris-Nice in favour of re-launching his early season preparation at the Volta a Catalunya, so Sky will have Geraint Thomas vying for the overall at Paris-Nice instead. Defending champion Richie Porte is riding Paris-Nice for BMC Racing this year.

Other GC contenders for Paris-Nice include Romain Bardet (AG2R), Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin), Wilco Kelderman (LottoNl-Jumbo) and Pierre Rolland (Cannondale).

Alberto Contador attacks Rigoberto Uran during Algarve's final stage
Alberto Contador attacks Rigoberto Uran during Volta ao Algarve's final stage.

Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen

This three-day 2.1 race in Belgium starts Friday in Middelkerke with a 7km prologue time trial. Stage 1 takes riders over 173.6km from Brugge to Harelbeke before the race concludes Sunday with a 182.7km stage from Nieuwpoort to Ichtegem. Etixx-QuickStep won last year's race with Yves Lampaert, but the promising young Belgian will be at Strade Bianche the year and is not on the team's roster, which includes 2015 breakout rider Julian Alaphilippe instead.

Other WorldTour teams on the start list include BMC Racing, Lotto Soudal, FDJ, Cannondale, LottoNl-Jumbo, Katusha and AG2R La Mondiale. In all, 19 teams will take the start line in Middelkerke with a start list tilted heavily toward the home country.

GP Industria & Artigianato

The 39th edition of this one-day race in Italy takes place Sunday in Larciano and throws 199.2km at the peloton, which includes WorldTour teams IAM Cycling, Orica-GreenEdge, Astana, Lampre-Merida, Movistar, Katusha and Cannondale.

The 1.1 race was absent from the UCI calendar last year but returns this year.

Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) is on the provisional start list, although his expected start at Saturday's Strade Bianche calls this into question. Also on the provisional start list are Orica's Simon Gerrans and Adam Yates, who won the race's previous edition in 2014. Lampre-Merida will feature Diego Ullissi and Sacha Modolo, while Katusha is bringing Joaquim Rodriguesz. Rigoberto Uran is on Cannondale's provisional start list with Simon Clarke, Rumanas Navardauskas and Davide Formolo, who was second in 2014.

Other recent winners include Mauro Santambriogio in 2013 and Filippo Pozzato in 2012.

Tour de Taiwan

This five-stage UCI 2.1 race starts Sunday in Taipei and runs through Thursday, March 10, when it finishes with a 147.5km stage from Jianshanpi Resort to Wutai.

The race lacks any WorldTour teams, but Pro Continental squads Drapac Pro Cycling, UnitedHealthcare, Nippo-Vini Fantini and Novo Nordisk should light things up throughout the week.

Recently crowned Colombian national road race champion Edwin Avila will be on hand with Team Illuminate, a US Continental team, while Drapac will bring 2013 winner Bernard Sulzberger. other teams expected on the start line include Australia's Avanti Sport, SkyDive Dubai, JLT Condor and Parkhotel Valkenburg.

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