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Strade Bianche is the first WorldTour race of the restarted 2020 season.
Many of these riders have not clashed since Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, nearly five months ago, and their form remains a mystery. Without knowing which riders are on particularly good form going into Saturday’s race, an element of unpredictability is present.
Jakob Fuglsang was one of the main animators of the 2019 Strade Bianche. The Dane found himself in familiar territory, off the front with Julian Alaphilippe, but ultimately had to settle for second at the top of the climb to Piazza del Campo.
Fuglsang is well suited to the undulating parcours and had strong showings in his two participations. Will he get redemption in 2020?
Zdenek Stybar arrives as a former winner on Alaphilippe’s powerhouse Deceuninck-Quick Step team. Should Alaphilippe arrive without his usual impeccable form, the former cyclocross world champion will be more than able to take the reins.
Philippe Gilbert won Strade Bianche on his first attempt in 2011. In his two subsequent appearances, the Belgian remained fairly anonymous in the finale. Despite more recent softer showings, his ability on a finishing ramp such as Strade Bianche’s is legendary. Gilbert’s track record on the Mur de Huy and Cauberg should put the entire peloton on high alert this Saturday.
Now riding for Lotto-Soudal, Gilbert should have a free role at Strade Bianche.
Søren Kragh Andersen & Tiesj Benoot
Tiesj Benoot won one of the most epic editions of Strade Bianche in 2018. The Belgian should be considered a clear favorite in 2020. However his teammate Søren Kragh Andersen rounded out a mighty 1-2 punch from Team Sunweb at Paris-Nice in 2020.
Andersen turned heads with a win in the individual time trial, and supported Benoot beautifully in the mountains. The duo will make their return to racing at Strade Bianche. Andersen will enter with a lower profile than Benoot, a fact which may work to his advantage.
Krists Neilands is a young Latvian rider who has shown glimmers of excellence while riding for Israel Cycling Academy the past two years. Neilands won the incredibly technical Dwars Door Het Hageland in 2018 ahead of Elia Viviani. Earlier that year, he attacked over the Poggio at Milano-Sanremo only to be foiled by eventual winner Vincenzo Nibali.
Now under the banner of the newly minted WorldTour Israel Start-Up Nation, Neilands will arrive at Strade Bianche with mixed surface pedigree and climbing ability. Those two ingredients could combine to create a surprise result.