The white roads of Italy host the world’s greatest cyclists on Saturday 5th March in the biggest race of the season so far.
The 2022 road season briefly diverts from the north European bergs and cobbles this weekend for the 16th edition of Strade Bianche.
One of the most prestigious one-day races outside the five Monuments will see Campagnolo-using UAE Team Emirates and AG2R Citroën Team do battle with the gravel white roads, pitchy climbs and competition over a parcours that stretches out to 184km.
The race starts in Siena before consuming the rolling hills of Tuscany and finishing once again in Siena. In-between, the route features 11 sections of gravel where recent tradition says Campagnolo’s world-class wheels will be wrapped with either 26mm or 28mm tyres.
Despite the gravel sections, the likes of Davide Formolo and Lilian Calmejane will opt for Campagnolo Super Record EPS over the game-changing, gravel-specific 13-speed Ekar groupset.
Those 11 stretches of white road total 63km with gravel efforts lasting from 800m to 11.9km. Arguably the most testing is the 11.5km section known as Monte Sante Marie. That’s not purely for the gravel foundations but due to it heading uphill, too.
Riders and spectators alike should also watch out for the climb towards Colle Pinzuto that features gradients touching 15% followed by a series of exhilarating descents before a peak ascent of 18% riding back into Piazza del Campo and the Strade Bianche finish line.
It’ll be a magnificent occasion but who’ll follow Mathieu van der Poel’s 2021 victory?
Will the winner come from UAE Team Emirates or AG2R Citroen Team? Let’s see who’s lining up to battle the white roads.
UAE TEAM EMIRATES
Two-time Tour de France champion Tadej Pogačar will lead UAE Team Emirates off the back of his recent victory at the UAE Tour. His third success of the 2022 season saw the Slovenian hold off Adam Yates on Jebel Hafeet to retain his UAE Tour crown.
In 2021, Pogačar followed UAE Tour glory with seventh at Strade Bianche, commenting after the race:
“It was a good day for us; the team put in a strong performance, being active at the front of the race all day… I put in a lot of work in the fight for fourth place but it didn’t work out. Still, I’m satisfied with my seventh place.”
His seventh was six places better than his 13th in 2020. Six places better in 2022 will see Pogačar lift the Strade Bianche title.
Pogačar lines up at Strade Biance alongside the likes of Marc Soler, Davide Formolo and Alessandro Covi. It’ll be particularly interesting to see the development of 28-year-old Soler who moved to UAE Team Emirates in the winter.
Soler, a GC contender in his own right, has made it clear that he’s joined the team to support Pogacar with the ultimate 2022 aim to help the 23-year-old win his third straight Tour.
Early season races of this quality provide the perfect platform to forge bonds that’ll hold the team in good stead come July.
AG2R CITROËN TEAM
The experienced Greg van Avermaet is set to lead the French team in a race where the Belgian star has racked up countless top-10 finishes, including second in 2015, but is yet to taste victory.
At 36 years old, some question whether he still has the legs that saw him win Olympic gold (2016) and Paris-Roubaix (2017). Van Avermaet will direct critics to his recent form where, just last weekend, he finished third at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Then there was third at the 2021 edition of the Tour of Flanders.
In short, his tactical acumen and efficiency of the Campagnolo Super Record EPS Disc Brake groupset and Campagnolo Bora ULTRA WTO full carbon wheels more than compensates for any perceived drop in peak power output.
While the final line-up’s yet to be confirmed, AG2R Citroën Team should feature the likes of Clément Champoussin, Andrea Vendrame, Lilian Calmejane and Benoit Cosnefroy.
The latter is making his debut at Strade Bianche and will look to build on his Bretagne Classic success of 2021 where he outsprinted world champion Julian Alaphilippe.
On paper, Cosnefroy’s style is more suited to the Ardennes Classics but on the gravel of Strade Bianche, you never know,
Campagnolo wishes all its riders a memorable day at Strade Bianche.
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