Philippe Gilbert leads an all-star cast to Saturday’s Strade Bianche race
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Monday, February 27, 2012

Philippe Gilbert leads an all-star cast to Saturday’s Strade Bianche race

by Ben Atkins at 11:27 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Spring Classics, Montepaschi Strade Bianche
 
BMC Racing the team to beat with last year’s winner, Montalcino Giro stage winner, and huge Classics pedigree

philippe gilbertPhilippe Gilbert will start this Saturday’s Strade Bianche race, wearing number one as defending champion, at the head of the BMC Racing team. While the Belgian champion will doubtless be the team leader in the race, which celebrates the iconic Tuscan white roads, much of the rest of the team will be made up of riders that could equally be its main protected rider.

Alongside the Belgian Classics star will be Tour de France champion Cadel Evans, whose own Strade Bianche pedigree includes victory in the epic Giro d’Italia stage to Montalcino in 2010. Also expected to be in the team will be riders with a great deal of Classics experience, including George Hincapie, Alessandro Ballan and Greg Van Avermaet. The latter two rode strongly in the weekend’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, while Evans will use the race as part of his preparation for Tirreno-Adriatico, which starts the following Wednesday.

While powerful, the BMC Racing team will not have the race all its own way. Despite its relative young age - its first edition was held as recently as 2007 - the Strade Bianche attracts some of the biggest Classics stars. The names of previous race winners Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan-Trek), and Maxim Iglinskiy (Astana) stand out on the 14-team start list; as do those of 2011 Paris-Roubaix winner Johan Vansummeren (Garmin-Barracuda), Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) and Iglinskiy’s teammate Roman Kreuziger.

The Garmin-Barracuda team will also include Dan Martin, Ryder Hesjedal and Christian Vande Velde.

The Italian challenge will be led by Sagan’s Liquigas-Cannondale teammates Vincenzo Nibali and neo-pro Moreno Moser, who won the recent Trofeo Laigueglia. Another prodigious neo-pro, Enrico Battaglin, will lead the Colnago-CSF Inox team, Tuscan resident Daniele Bennati (RadioShack-Nissan-Trek) will add a sprint option to Cancellara’s team, while national champion Giovanni Visconti will bring his new Movistar team to his first race on home soil in 2012.

Filippo Pozzato (Farnese Vini-Selle Italia), who rode both the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne (but sadly finished neither) will also be present on the Gaiole in Chianti start line as his recovery from the broken collarbone, sustained in the Tour of Qatar, continues.

The race, which starts in the idyllic town of Gaiole in Chianti in the heart of the Tuscan wine country, will cross 57.2km of Strade Bianche in its 190km length, and finish on the iconic Piazza del Campo in the hilltop city of Siena.

For the first time in its history, the race will be broadcast live on television, either on RAI Sport in Italy, Eurosport in Europe, Universal Sports in the USA, or via the race’s website.

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