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Thursday morning, just 48 hours before the intended start of Strade Bianche, RCS Sport announced that the Tuscan classic would be called off due concerns over the coronavirus.
Italy is one of the countries that has been most affected by the virus, and is in the midst of a nationwide effort to stop the virus' spread.
RCS Sport hopes that Strade Bianche will be given a new place on the calendar later in the year, but for now, we are left to imagine what might have been on the white roads outside of Sienna.
Read on to see FloBikes' predictions for who might have won the women's and men's editions of Strade Bianche.
Annemiek van Vleuten
The winner of the 2019 Strade Bianche began her Classics season with fireworks, winning last weekend at Omloop Het Nieuwsbald to mark her first victory while wearing the rainbow stripes. Annemiek van Vleuten launched her now signature solo attack, on the Kapelmuur, mirroring her winning move at Strade Bianche a year ago.
Van Vleuten's incredible 2019 season began with a win at Strade Bianche, followed by a trio of second place finishes during the Classics before finishing the spring winning at Liege-Bastogne-Liege. She would go on to become the national champion in the individual time trial in the Netherlands and sweeping the Giro Dona, where she won the overall, mountains, and points classification. Van Vleuten of course finished her season by claiming the rainbow jersey in the Yorkshire road race.
Van Vleuten has clearly carried her 2019 momentum into the new decade, and is the woman to beat in any race.
The young Polish rider is the most consistent finisher in Strade Bianche's history, yet she has never managed to win the race. Niewiadoma finished third in 2019 and came second the three years prior.
The finishing climb is perfect for Niewiadoma's aggressive climbing style, and one has to imagine it is only a matter of time before she pulls off a win in Sienna.
Anna van der Breggen
Anna van der Breggen earned her first victory of the season, at her first race of 2020 at Setmana Ciclista Valenciana in Spain. Backed by the powerful Boels-Dolmans team, the 2018 world champion and winner of Strade Bianche will always be considered a favorite in the European classics.
Lucinda Brand will look to her cyclo-cross skills to give her an advantage on the course's many gravel roads. The 3-time stage winner at the Giro Rosa and mountain classification winner at last year’s Boels Ladies Tour has proven herself to be more than capable on the climbs.
Coming off a strong cyclocross season and backed by former winners Elisa Longo Borghini and Elizabeth Diegnan, Lucinda Brand would lead a very strong Trek-Segafredo challenge.
The Danish rider began the season embroiled in a doping controversy which did not result in any disciplinary action. Fuglsang was quick to put the controversy behind him, answering his critics by dominating his first race of the season. Fuglsan won two stages of the Vuelta a Andalucia in Spain, walking away with both the points classification and the GC.
Fuglsang proved himself capable at last year's Strade Bianche where he finished second to Julian Alaphilippe. The Dane was formidable in 2019, winning a stage at the Vuelta a España, Liege-Bastogne-Liege and the overall at the Criterium du Dauphine. He appears to be entering 2020 on even better form.
Wout van Aert
Wout van Aert returned to racing road last week in the opening weekend of the Classics for the first time since his crash during stage 13th at the Tour de France last season. His 11th place finish was impressive for his first time back in the bunch after so many months.
For the past two years, the Belgian treated fans to performances of pure grit in the finale of Strade Bianche. Van Aert finished third in 2018 after coming off his bike due to cramps on the final climb. In 2019, van Aert fought his way back to Fuglsang and Alaphilippe on the final climb, but through gritted teeth, he was once again forced to settle for third.
While the gravel sections are no problem for the triple cyclo-cross world champion, the distance has taken a toll on Van Aert in the past. However, some three years into his new career as a road racer, the Belgian is more than capable of improving on his past podium performances.
The Frenchman makes his return to Siena after skipping the race in 2019. The AG2R rider finished second in 2018. Caked in mud, Bardet's surprised many as he rolled across the line in 2018. The Frenchman is known more for his climbing prowess than his ability in one-day classics. This however is a stigma that Bardet seems interested in correcting.
Bardet finished 2019 searching for change, claiming he felt uninspired by racing a program built around the Tour de France year after year. In 2020, Bardet will target the Giro d'Italia instead. Returning to Strade Bianche seems like a good first step to reigniting his drive.