Tim Wellens ready to crush gravel in Strade Bianche

Clasica Jaen Paraiso Interior 2022 - 1st Edition - Baeza - Ubeda 187,8 km - 14/02/2022 - Tim Wellens (BEL - Lotto Soudal) - photo Luis Angel Gomez/SprintCyclingAgency©2022
Tim Wellens rides to second in the Clásica Jaén Paraiso Interior (Image credit: SprintCyclingAgency)

Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) had one of the best starts to a season of his career this year, winning the Trofeo Serra de Tramuntana in Mallorca, and a stage and second place overall in the Tour du Var. But after a stomach bug knocked him out of the Opening Weekend races, the Belgian is ready to crush it on the 63 kilometres of white gravel roads in Strade Bianche on Saturday.

"It was painful to miss the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad last week," Wellens said. "It was really bad timing to get sick and unfortunately I couldn't turn my fine form into a result at the Omloop. But fortunately, I am now fully recovered, I trained well the past few days and the legs feel good again."

Wellens finished on the podium in his first outing at Strade Bianche in 2017, finishing just behind compatriot Greg Van Avermaet in third after Michal Kwiatkowski soloed to the win. He raced there again in 2019 and 2021, coming to the line in 10th and 13th. After getting his gravel legs under him with second place in the new Clásica Jaén Paraiso Interior last month, he aims for a much better result this time.

"I am really looking forward to Strade Bianche. It's a special race for both riders and fans and I just love to be at the start, maybe also because I've always had good results in the past. This year, I again want to compete for victory," Wellens said.

Without defending champion Mathieu van der Poel or 2020 winner Wout van Aert on the start line, Wellens will likely be watching riders like 2019 winner Julian Alaphilippe (Quickstep-AlphaVinyl), Tour de France winner Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) and Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers), who are the main favourites, on the key parts of the course.

"I am expecting a traditional start to the Strade, with the race exploding on the seventh gravel section, the infamous Monte Sante Marie. That is probably where – like most years – the selection will be made and the race will be decided."

Wellens will be joined by Roger Kluge, Harry Sweeny and Maxim Van Gils, who are racing Strade Bianche for the first time, and second-timers Brent Van Moer, Andreas Kron and Victor Campenaerts.

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