The 2021 WorldTour continues on Saturday with the 15th edition of Strade Bianche, and in the last few days the teams have been out studying the dirt roads to complete their preparations for the race.
The Tuscan Classic has quickly grown to one of the most anticipated races of the season, with an endless stream of hills and long stretches of famed white roads a unique feature among WorldTour one-day races. Both Classics riders and Grand Tour contenders can win Strade Bianche.
Wout van Aert will kick off his 2021 road season at the race, which starts and ends in Siena. He said he's ready to defend his title despite not having raced yet this season, and added that the peloton will be one of the strongest of the year.
Van Aert said that the strade bianche feel better to ride compared to last August.
"The gravel roads are a little better than last summer, it's also a lot colder," he told reporters on Thursday, recalling last summer's 36C heat.
"If it stays as dry as it is now, it will be treacherous. Tomorrow they are predicting a little rain, and it will depend on that, whether the dust is compacted or not.
"It's one of the strongest fields of competitors we'll see this year. It's wise to keep an eye on more riders. Traditionally, a lot of climbers participate in this as well: Fuglsang, Pogačar, Bernal... That shows how important this race has become."
The 26-year-old Belgian, who won last year's race by 30 seconds after an attack on the final gravel sector at Le Tolfe, is the clear leader for Jumbo-Visma on Saturday. He'll be supported by Chris Harper, Paul Martens, Nathan van Hooydonck, Robert Gesink, Tobias Foss, and Timo Roosen.
Bora-Hansgrohe, meanwhile, were set to be led by Peter Sagan, twice a runner-up at the race, but the Slovakian will not make his season bow at Tirreno-Adriatico.
"Peter is on the way to recovery," the team told Cyclingnews earlier this week. "He will not be taking part in Strade Bianche, with his season start planned for Tirreno-Adriatico, as long as his recovery remains on track over the coming days."
The team will instead be led by climber Emanuel Buchmann, who makes his debut at the race. Daniel Oss, Giovanni Aleotti, Marcus Burghardt, Patrick Gamper, Patrick Konrad, and Ben Zwiehoff complete their squad.
Cyclingnews will have full live coverage of the men's and women's editions of Strade Bianche, followed by race reports, news and interviews. Live coverage of the men's 2021 Strade Bianche starts at 11:40 am CET.
For more information on how to watch live coverage of the race, visit - How to watch Strade Bianche 2021 – live TV and streaming.
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