Mitchelton-Scott's Luke Durbridge and Chris Juul-Jensen will lead their team on the gravel roads of the Strade Bianche on Saturday, with both riders taking the confidence into the race that previous top 10s there gives them.
Durbridge finished sixth in 2017, while his Danish teammate, Juul-Jensen, was just a place behind him the same year in seventh. Decent results at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad last weekend [23rd and 34th, respectively] also confirms them as protected riders for Strade Bianche, and they'll be backed up on the white roads by recent Herald Sun Tour stage winner Nick Schultz, veteran Brent Bookwalter, and youngsters Callum Scotson, Rob Stannard and Edoardo Affini.
"I'm really looking forward to it, as it's a beautiful race, and one that I've gone well at in the past," Durbridge said on the Mitchelton-Scott website.
"It's a new race that hasn't been around for very long, but I think it will be one of those big Monuments in many years to come," he added, echoing what many have said about a race that only saw the light of day in 2007, but is already a huge favourite with riders and fans alike.
"It's very hard, it's quite hilly and it's very technical, but it's a race that I really do enjoy, so I'm hoping we can put in a good performance as a team there," the Australian said.
"Opening Weekend [Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne] was good, even though the team didn't have the results that we would have liked, but we had some pretty bad luck, with [Matteo] Trentin having two crashes over two days, so we were just a little bit on the back foot when it really mattered."
Deceuninck-QuickStep's dominance over Opening Weekend, where they won both races through Zdenek Stybar and Bob Jungels, means that the Belgian team will go into Strade Bianche as the red-hot favourites, but Mitchelton-Scott directeur sportif Gene Bates thinks that it could play to his team's advantage to be flying a little under the radar.
"We've got a couple of guys in Durbridge and Juul-Jensen who have both run top 10 here before not that long ago, so they already know what it takes to achieve a good result here," said Bates. "They've both had very good build-ups in the pre-season, and already last weekend they were prominent at Omloop and Kuurne, so we’re confident we can have a really good ride with those two guys.
"If it's wet" – as it was last year – "then it's a very tricky race to handle, but the long-term forecast looks dry. You just never know so we’ll go in prepared for either scenario," continued Bates. "It's a particularly hilly race, so typically you see more climbers at the pointy end of the race as opposed to the cobbled Classics, but there is an element of crossover, where you can get the Classics guys going very well and also the climbers being competitive."
Mitchelton-Scott for the 2019 Strade Bianche: Edoardo Affini, Brent Bookwalter, Luke Durbridge, Chris Juul-Jensen, Callum Scotson, Nick Schultz, Rob Stannard
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