Van der Poel surrounded by 'cross talent in Strade Bianche team

Le Samyn 2021 - 53rd Edition - Quaregnon - Dour 205,4 km - 02/03/2021 - Mathieu Van Der Poel (NED - Alpecin-Fenix) - photo Peter De Voecht/PN/BettiniPhoto©2021
Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) rides at 2021 Le Samyn (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Cyclo-cross World Champion Mathieu van der Poel is one of the favourites for Saturday's Strade Bianche despite a less than auspicious debut in a hot, late-summer edition of the Italian race in 2020. The sport's newest Classic with its 11 gravel sectors plays into the Dutch champion's strengths, but he suffered a puncture before a key sector at Monte Santa Maria and finished a distant 15th behind rival Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma). This year, Alpecin-Fenix is sending a squad well-versed in off-road racing to support Van der Poel.

The seven-rider team includes experienced cyclo-cross racers Gianni Vermeersch, six-time German 'cross champion Philipp Walsleben, and Xandro Meurisse, along with Petr Vakoč, who finished fifth in Strade Bianche in 2016 before his career was derailed when he was hit by a truck during a pre-season training camp in South Africa in 2018. Rounding out the team are Classics specialists Otto Vergaerde and Jonas Rickaert.

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