Strade Bianche 2020 “one of the hardest days of my career” – Van Avermaet.

Team CCCs Greg Van Avermaet has described the return to racing at Strade Bianche as “one of the hardest days of my career”

The Belgian who has ridden the race more times than any other professional rider, finished eighth in Siena, over four minutes behind winner Wout Van Aert.

Temperatures were in excess of 35°C throughout the race, with many riders struggling to stay hydrated.

The reigning Olympic champion said: “The heat and the first big effort of it took something out of me.

“I was quite sick after the finish, so you also notice how deep you went.”

Photo: Chris Auld

Van Avermaet will now likely turn his focus to Milan-San Remo, the first monument of the year, where he’ll join up with teammate Matteo Trentin .

Milan-San Remo takes place on the 8th August 2020, be sure to check the website for our previews and more!

Strade Bianche 2020 – Five talking points

Featured images courtesy of gettyimages

We’ve missed cycling alright!

What a day’s racing in Tuscany as Annemiek van Vleuten and Wout Van Aert ride to victory in their respective races at Strade Bianche. Impressive performances from both, the perfect race to kick-off a new rescheduled season and hopefully much more to come.

Here are five talking points from the 14th Strade Bianche and the 6th Strade Bianche Donne.

1 A welcome return to racing for Wout Van Aert

Victory doesn’t get much sweeter than this for Wout Van Aert. After an awful injury at his Tour de France debut last year it was fantastic to see him back performing to his absolute best! Cyclocross skills were used to great effect and to be fair he played the perfect tactical game by attacking on the final gravel sector.

Third place in 2018, third place in 2019 and now the top step for the Jumbo-Visma man. Lots of expectation has been put on Van Aert’s shoulders, he’s a superb talent and he’s delivered. As each and every pre-race favourite was spat out the back, Van Aert made it look easy, so what more can he achieve during this new revamped season?

As we’ve seen last year, Wout Van Aert certainly has the ability to ride on all forms of terrain. He will certainly win a Monument sometime soon, he can time trial and already has a Tour de France stage win in the bag.

More to come, more stage wins at Grand Tours – Wout Van Aert is the man to watch right now!

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2 Some unexpected surprises

Three individual riders flew under the radar and finished in decent positions. Italians Davide Formolo and Alberto Bettiol plus German road champion Max Schachmann certainly sprung a surprise.

After winning the Tour of Flanders last year, perhaps the time has come to take Alberto Bettiol seriously as a contender for numerous Classics. There were times on the climbs where he looked strong but just couldn’t quite make the cut to finish on the podium.

We know so much about Max Schachmann after winning Paris-Nice before lockdown and in previous years he’s taken some impressive wins at the Giro d’Italia and Tour of Catalunya. He’s a classics man, a decent climber and just like Wout Van Aert, a Monument will come his way sooner than you think.

Italian fans haven’t seen a home winner of Strade Bianche since Moreno Moser in 2013, so they’ll be left wondering how Davide Formolo finished second.  Chasing Wout Van Aert was always going to be tough but fair play to the Italian road champ for surprising the pre-race bookies by coming close.

Bettiol, Schachmann and Formolo deserve huge amounts of praise.

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3 Jakob Fuglsang’s pleasing performance

35-years of age, time is running out in search of a Grand Tour podium place for Jakob Fuglsang but he should be smiling after finishing fifth overall. The Dane attacked with around 40 km to go before being caught alongside six other favourites. He paid for his efforts earlier in the race and that showed as he was dropped on the final gravel section.

Fuglsang is likely to head to the Giro d’Italia this year and could skip the Tour de France. He’s had a lot of misfortune at the Tour in recent years so maybe a new target to aim for in Italy could be a good thing.

Winner of Liege-Bastogne-Liege last year, there should be more to come from Jakob Fuglsang this season.

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4 Some riders left with no luck and no form

Pre-race favourite Mathieu van der Poel unfortunately went down in a crash, former winner Tiesj Benoot abandoned, last year’s champion Julian Alaphilippe suffered a puncture and in the final 20 km the Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet found himself distanced.

It isn’t the end of the world for lots of riders who’ve suffered from bad luck and for van der Poel in particular he’s still got plenty of racing to come. Julian Alaphilippe was probably not the main man as Zdenek Stybar performed well to finish in sixth.

For Greg Van Avermaet indeed so many it just wasn’t meant to be. Peter Sagan was barely involved and for Michal Kwiatkowski he’ll be left disappointed finishing 12th. We can’t be too harsh on the riders though. Conditions were tough and motorbikes raising dust in the face probably wasn’t pleasant either!

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5 Van Vleuten continues her winning streak

Last but by no means least, the women’s race offered some superb racing. A second consecutive Strade Bianche title for Annemiek van Vleuten and she did in fine style. Bridging across to the lead chasing group from the peloton, it was another vintage performance by the current world champion. Chasing Alé BTC Ljubljana’s Margarita Victoria García it didn’t look as though van Vleuten would make the catch but in the end she breezed past on the Via Santa Caterina to take the win.

Since winning the world championships last September, Annemiek van Vleuten has won every race that she has started. First at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and first at all three of the recent one-day classics in the Basque Country – chapeau!

Margarita Victoria García produced the ride of the day attacking with 46km to go. She had the gap but just couldn’t contain van Vleuten as she caught up with 7km.

American rider Leah Thomas for Equipe Paule took third place and former champion Anna van der Breggen finished in fouth, two minutes and five seconds behind van Vleuten. 

The women’s World Tour is back and the big question ahead – how many can Annemiek van Vleuten win?

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Greg Van Avermaet ready for the restart

Image courtesy of Tim de Waele/Getty Images

By now Greg Van Avermaet would have completed his seventh Tour de France, flown to Tokyo to try and defend his Olympic title before preparing for the World Championships in Switzerland. Little did he and other riders expect that they’d be riding Strade Bianche in August, the Tour de France in September, the 2020 games delayed by a year on top of a Paris Roubaix in October.

And here we are, a season that’s not normal and will go down as unusual. We’re all anxious that a new rescheduled calendar can go as far as November but for now it’s good to see cycling back. 

For Greg Van Avermaet himself indeed every rider and fan, it’s a welcome sight to see cycling back despite new protocols, wearing face masks and socially distanced interviews. The Olympic champion’s last race before the pandemic was Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne and five months later he will be at the restart tomorrow for Strade Bianche. 

“I’m really excited. I think everyone has been looking forward to this moment for a long time. We’re finally racing again which is why we have been training and preparing. The calendar is really challenging because it’s so busy so it’s really important to keep a good condition the whole time. I’m definitely aiming to win a big classic, a Monument, but all of the races I’m doing are really important so I would like to win any of them.”

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The Belgian has had a relatively decent start to 2020. 20th overall at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana back in February, 13th place overall at the Volta ao Algarve later that month and then he managed to complete two Belgian one-day races in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne.

Tomorrow will see his tenth career appearance at a race he’s as runner-up twice in 2015 and 2017. There’s every chance with every rider’s form unknown that Van Avermaet could go one better and win the 14th edition.

“A race like Strade Bianche is really special and for me, it’s one of the nicest races of the year so I’m really looking forward to it. I always want to do well here but, of course, it’s a bit of a different situation now than in March. Without having any races leading into it, you don’t know where you stand. But everyone is in the same situation.”

On top of coronavirus safety measures, this weekend’s race has an added challenge in hot Tuscan weather in August. Blazing heat and stonier gravel is one concern and problem each rider will have to face.

“It’s going to be really hot so that’s going to be a shock for everyone I think. I have been in Livigno at altitude so it was much cooler there but normally, I prefer to race in warmer weather than the cold so hopefully it will suit me more. The strade looks a little different now than it does in March. It’s more stoney than what we are used to so we’re going to ride 28mm tires with lower pressure which should allow us to go a bit faster. But it’s a great race to do and I think everyone will be excited to be at the start line.”

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With the season halted, riders involved in virtual racing and only training to get race miles in the tank, the form of each and every rider might be hard to tell. Everybody arrives at Strade Bianche without a clue as to who will perform the strongest. Current cyclocross sensation Mathieu van der Poel starts as favourite even though it’s his debut and defending champion Julian Alaphilippe is ready to restart his season.

Since starting his first Strade Bianche back in 2010, Greg Van Avermaet has only finished outside the top twenty once – 34th in 2018. Winning races is a lottery and there are so many individual stars to pick out.

“I think it is the same guys who are always good here who will be the favorites; Kwiatowski, Fulgsang, Alaphilippe, van der Poel, Van Aert. Those guys are really good on the gravel so they’re the guys who will probably be up there again tomorrow”.

A compressed calendar means priorities for some riders might chop and change. Peter Sagan has kept to his word by committing to riding the Giro d’Italia, Romain Bardet has yet to decide the same and a new rescheduled Olympic date for Tokyo, gives Greg Van Avermaet and others more time to prepare.

Riders are also unsure as to where they’ll be in 2021. Sponsorship and season transfers are up in the air, nobody knows what the future holds for cycling because of Covid-19. For Van Avermaet, the departure of CCC as sponsor for his team, the future looks unpredictable.

“For now, I am leaving all my options open. I’m still confident in the team to find a new sponsor but, of course, I’m also looking to other teams to go to if it doesn’t work out. I’m waiting on some news from Jim Ochowicz to see if we can find something and if it’s not possible, of course I will go somewhere else. But for now, I’m concentrating on racing again and then we’ll see.”

CCC Team for the 2020 Strade Bianche: Alessandro De Marchi, Simon Geschke, Jonas Koch, Michael Schär, Greg Van Avermaet, Gijs Van Hoecke, Nathan Van Hooydonck

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Strade Bianche 2020 Preview

Featured image courtesy of Gruber Images

Outbreaks of coronavirus cases on Italian soil back in March saw Strade Bianche cancelled, the first race to suffer the cut. Nothing delights cycling fans more than to see World Tour cycling back as the 14th edition of Strade Bianche gets underway. The white dirt roads, the short sharp ascents, finale into Siena’s Piazza del Campo – this is what we’ve missed! 

Having to adapt to new protocols will be evident with face masks, social distancing and sanitising materials – something we’re all getting used to. New safety measures have been successful for football, for cycling open roads mean that fans can’t be prevented from standing on the side of the road.

UCI President David Lappertient has praised the return of World Tour racing but with growing numbers of Covid-19 cases in Belgium, France and Spain – he has warned that race cancellations are still a possibility.

We all hope that everything runs smoothly. The sport is thankfully still alive and we’re now looking forward to what should be an entertaining day’s racing.

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179 days after postponement we now have a race on our hands. Dirt roads throwing up dust, riders in unknown form – all the ingredients for an exciting days’ racing.

Set among the Tuscan hills, this year’s race is of course different because of rescheduling – August instead of March, conditions won’t be the same. 184 km in total for the men with 11 gravel sectors, the Lucignano d’Asso at 11.9 km the longest section. The final sector at 12 km to go at Le Tolfe could see the opportunity for attacks before the final 16% climb entering Siena’s city walls and then a fast run to the finish.

Two years ago we had pouring rain and last year we had springlike conditions. We could see temperatures reach 34 degrees in Tuscany hence hot conditions, potential for gravel sections to be looser and dusty conditions will be inevitable, likely to cause havoc.



Who will win the 19th edition is the million dollar question! Because of a lengthy break we haven’t the foggiest on who will shine bright and take the victory but we do know some names to keep an eye on. 

Strong climbers and classics specialists are in abundance as are former cyclocross riders. Last year saw Julian Alaphilippe take the win, Jakob Fuglsang finish second and Wout Van Aert claim third place – all three starting their careers in cyclocross.

After a stunning comeback to win Amstel Gold last year, it’s no surprise that another current cyclocross sensation starts as favourite. Mathieu van der Poel has never ridden Strade Bianche so surely he cannot finish at least on the podium! We said the same about Wout Van Aert’s debut in 2018 and look where he finished.

Riding for Alpecin-Felix, the Dutchman is a hot property in world cycling and with no place at this year’s Tour de France his focus will be all on the one-day classics. It’s his debut, he has the talent and putting your cyclocross skills to good use on dirt roads will go a long way. Winning overall with favourite tagged on your back would be a huge achievement if the Dutchman pulled it off.

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Last year’s winner Julian Alaphilippe starts as do four other former winners in Tiesj Benoot (2018), Zdeněk Štybar (2015), Philippe Gilbert (2011) and two-times champion Michal Kwiatkowski (2014 and 2017).

Deceuninck Quick-Step always make a big impression for the classics with Alaphilippe ready to kick off his revamped season ahead of the Tour de France, Štybar has the ability to win the race again and in Luxembourg road champion Bob Jungels and last year’s Ronde van Vlaanderen runner-up Kasper Asgreen, Quick-Step have options on the table.

After winning Milan Sanremo, La Fleche Wallonne back-to-back and surprising all of us at the Tour, Julian Alaphilippe has a big year ahead. Yes he’s confirmed that he won’t be targeting Tour de France GC but could that just be a way of shifting attention away from him? Who knows but there’s no doubt that the Frenchman has bags of talent and could easily win numerous classics from now until October.

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Belgian riders are in abundance with Wout Van Aert looking to go one better than 2018 and last year. The Jumbo-Visma man has finished on the podium twice and alongside rival Mathieu van der Poel, this could be a new emerging duel for years to come. 

Greg Van Avermaet has yet to score a classics win in Europe for CCC Pro Team, Dylan Teuns can climb all terrain as we saw atop La Planche des Belles Filles last year plus AG2R La Mondiale’s Oliver Naesen finished second at Milan Sanremo, so never discount the Belgians cooking up a storm on the road.

British squad Team Ineos arrive with two-times winner Michal Kwiatkowski, three-times road world champion Peter Sagan starts and although Astana arrive with last year’s runner-up Jakob Fuglsang, you might be tempted into thinking that current Kazakhstan national champion Alexey Lutsenko might try something. He finished seventh last year and as we saw at the UAE Tour back in February, Lutsenko can seriously climb!

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For the women, many of the teams have been in action already with three recent one-day races in the Basque Country.

This will be the first World Tour race in five months after Liane Lippert won the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race to secure the Women’s World Tour purple jersey. The points series restarts tomorrow so thankfully Lippert will get to wear the jersey on the road arriving with a Sunweb team featuring Coryn Rivera, Leah Kirchmann, Franziska Koch, Juliette Labous and Floortje Mackaij. Sunweb controlled much of the bunch last year and they could do the same.

136km along the white gravel roads, the women’s route is exactly the same as last year.



Mitchelton-Scott arrive with the strongest team on paper with last year’s winner and current world champion Annemiek van Vleuten starting alongside Jessica Allen, Lucy Kennedy, Moniek Tenniglo, Georgia Williams and Amanda Spratt.

Van Vleuten might feel pressure as the favourite but she heads into Strade Bianche in good shape after winning all three recent one-day races in the Basque Country plus she’s also won Omloop Het Nieuwsblad pre-lockdown. 

Britain’s Lizzie Deignan looks set to start in Trek-Segafredo colours alongside Italian Elisa Longo Borghini, who has finished twice in third and took the win in 2017. Boels Dolmans line up with former winner Anna van der Breggen and we’ll never forget her sensational win back in 2018, so can she do it again?

One huge favourite is Canyon SRAM’s Kasia Niewiadoma. The Polish rider has finished on the podium for the last four editions, so could she take one big leap and take the overall this year?

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Whoever wins this weekend, it’ll be great to see the Women’s World Tour back in action plus the men gearing themselves up for what will be a non-stop bonanza of cycling. Hold onto your hats, make your predictions and get set for a terrific weekend as cycling returns!

Strade Bianche Donne starts at 10.55 and the race is expected to finish around 15.00. For the men, the race starts at 12.45 and the race is expected to finish around 17.00 – all UK times.