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Mitchelton-Scott to send powerful women's team to Strade Bianche

Mitchelton-Scott will send an extremely strong team to contest the Strade Bianche women's race on Saturday, March 9, with Annemiek van Vleuten, Amanda Spratt and Lucy Kennedy all featuring in the Australian team's six-rider squad for the Italian one-day race.

Van Vleuten successfully returned to racing at the women's Omloop Het Nieuwsblad last Saturday, where she finished fourth. It was her first event since sustaining a knee injury in a crash at the world championship road race in Austria last September.

Spratt and Kennedy both started their 2019 seasons in Australia, where Spratt won her third-straight Tour Down Under in January and Kennedy came away with the Herald Sun Tour title. They were supported in Australia by Jess Allen, Tour Down Under stage winner Grace Brown, and Georgia Williams, who successfully defended her time trial national title while home in New Zealand, and those three riders will also line up as the remainder of the Strade Bianche squad this weekend.

Kennedy effectively won her Herald Sun Tour title on the gravelled Jeeralang climb near Churchill that featured on the final stage of the race, and so Tuscany's strade bianche – the white gravel roads – will suit her, and she hopes to improve on her fifth place at last year's Strade Bianche.

"The form is a little unknown having not been in Europe very long yet and adjusting to the time zone and weather," Kennedy said on her team's website. "The climb at the Omloop van het Hageland last weekend [the day after the women's Omloop Het Nieuwsblad] wasn't that tough, but I felt strong, and it was good to have a bit of a hit-out before Saturday.

"I've had more experience on gravel than cobbles, so I'm more comfortable on it," the 30-year-old Australian continued, comparing Strade Bianche with the two Belgian races that opened the season of one-day Classics. "But they both require a lot of strength, and positioning is really important on both."

What made her fifth place at last year's Strade Bianche extra special was that it was Kennedy's first Classic, as she had only joined the team in 2018, from the High5 Australian Development Team, having come from a running and triathlon background.

"I rate that ride as one of my best performances on the bike, and I fell in love with the race, so I'm really excited to be back this weekend," she said."

Mitchelton-Scott sports director Alejandro Gonzalez-Tablas is in no doubt that the squad for Saturday's race is going to be one of the strongest in the field.

"We head to Strade with good motivation and a strong line-up," Gonzalez-Tabas confirmed. "It's also the first WorldTour race of the year, and we know that the competition will be high, as we saw last weekend in Nieuwsblad.

"Annemiek had a strong comeback last weekend, and Amanda has had a fantastic January and is really motivated to start the Euro season in good condition, so it all looks pretty set for us this weekend."

Mitchelton-Scott for the 2019 Strade Bianche Women: Jess Allen, Grace Brown, Lucy Kennedy, Amanda Spratt, Annemiek van Vleuten, Georgia Williams

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