The organisers of Strade Bianche, RCS Sport, announced on Friday that they have added another wild card team to the 2018 edition of the race in order to allow cyclo-cross World Champion Wout van Aert to compete.
Van Aert's Veranda's Willems-Crelan squad will line up for the March 3 event with Nippo-Vini Fantini and Androni Giocattoli as the other wild card teams, making a total of 21 teams along with the 18 WorldTour squads.
Because of the UCI's reduction in team sizes for races this season, the peloton will be 147-riders strong with teams of seven riders each.
Michal Kwiatkowski will return with Team Sky with the number 1 dossard as last year's winner, as will runner-up Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) and fourth-placed Zdenek Stybar (Quick-Step Floors).
World champion Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) will be on the line looking for his first win in the Italian race, which will traverse 11 sectors of the region's iconic white gravel roads for 63km total.
Boom to return in Paris-Nice
Lars Boom (LottoNL-Jumbo) set his sights in Paris-Nice for his return to racing. The Dutchman had heart surgery to correct an arrhythmia in January, and says in a video interview posted by his team that the procedure had more of an impact on him than he expected.
He was originally slated to race the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, but after his surgery he was unable to train well at first and is not in the form he had hoped.
His team agreed that an altitude camp and then Paris-Nice was a better route for his season's goals.
Three wild cards teams for 2018 Tour de Suisse
The organisers of the Tour de Suisse have announced Aqua Blue Sport, Direct Energie, and Nippo-Vini Fantini Europa Ovini as its three wild card teams for the 2018 edition of the WorldTour race. The race will take place 9-17 June, starting with a team time trial in Frauenfeld, and finishing in Bellinzona.
Aqua Blue Sport returns to the race a year on from Larry Warbasse's stage win having struggled so far to attract invitations in its second year as a Professional Continental squad. The team also won a stage at the Vuelta a España last year via Austrian Stefan Denifl and started their 2018 campaign with a stage win for Lasse Norman Hansen in Australia at the Herald Sun Tour.
French team Direct Energie is a regular invitee to the Tour de Suisse and again will line out in June for the race. Frenchman Sylvain Chavanel is expected to be on the start line for Direct Energie.
The third and final wild card for the 2018 edition of the race is Nippo-Vini Fantini Europa Ovini. The Italian-Japanese squad will make their debut at the Tour de Suisse. Former Giro d'Italia winner Damiano Cunego will retire from the sport at the conclusion of the race. Italian Marco Canola is also expected to line out for Nippo alongside Cunego.
BinckBank Tour returns to Muur van Geraardsbergen
The organisers of the BinckBank Tour, Golazo, announced the route for the 2018 edition, with the famed Muur van Geraardsbergen once again punctuating the final stage.
The 14th edition of the race will begin in Heerenveen in the Netherlands on August 13, 2018, and return to the finish in Bolsward after looping through several towns. A 13km time trial in Venray follows.
Stage 3 crosses the border into Belgium with a start in Aalter and a sprint-friendly finish in Antwerp. The fourth stage is the classic route from Blankenberge to Ardooie stage, before Friday's trip from Sint-Pieters-Leeuw to Lanaken.
The hills come into play as the race heads back into the Netherlands from Riemst to Sittard-Geleeen with a finish at the Tom Dumoulin Bike Park - named after the Giro d'Italia, world champion and defending champion of the race.
The final stage takes place back in Belgium, with a start in Lacs de Eau d'Heure with a tough finish featuring the Bosberg, the Denderoordberg and the Muur van Geraardsbergen.
"The course is once again perfectly in line with our philosophy: to offer an ideal stage race for the real Classics rider," said Golazo's Nick Van Den Bosch. "After reading the results of the last years, we have succeeded each year. Riders in the spring classics will especially have the opportunity to make a difference during the final weekend. With the Binck Gold Kilometer, we also ensure that the race comes to life already 20 kilometers from the finish of each stage. Once again this year, we are looking forward to an event full of surprises."
2018 BinckBank Tour
August 13: Heerenveen (Ned) – Bolsward (Ned)
August 14: Venray (Ned, ITT)
August 15: Aalter (Bel) – Antwerpen (Bel)
August 16: Blankenberge (Bel) – Ardooie (Bel)
August 17: Sint-Pieters-Leeuw (Bel)– Lanaken (Bel)
August 18: Riemst (Bel) – Sittard-Geleen (Ned)
August 19: Lacs de l'Eau d'Heure (Bel) – Geraardsbergen (Bel)
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