The Strade Bianche (1.WT, 1/08) open the second chapter of season 2020 next Saturday. The Italian classic, the first canceled World Tour event in March, became mythic in only a couple of years, because of its gravel roads crisscrossing the Tuscan vineyards. For the first time in its history, Circus-Wanty Gobert-Tormans will be at the start of the Italian classics organized by RCS, with the Strade Bianche next Saturday, followed by Milan-Turin (5/08), Milan-San Remo (8/08), GranPiemonte (12/08) and Il Lombardia (15/08).
The Belgian team opted for a team composed of climbers and classic riders to attack the 184 kilometer and almost 3000 altitude meters around Sienna (Italy). The group, under direction of Hilaire Van der Schueren and Steven De Neef, that will appear at the start in the heat, is composed of the Belgian riders Xandro Meurisse, Loïc Vliegen, Quinten Hermans, Timothy Dupont, Pieter Vanspeybrouck, the French rider Fabien Doubey and the Dutch rider Corné Van Kessel who replaces his compatriote Maurits Lammertink. Lammertink broke his collarbone during the recon un Thursday and will undergo surgery later this Friday.
Xandro Meurisse :
« We're back on known terrain, as we traveled here before the cancelation in March. But this time we'll be able to race! During the recon on Thursday I've noticed that the roads are dryer than in March. In the spring, the underground was still humid and solid. This time, there's a lot more dust and it's slippery. »
« I'm eager to start racing again, because this period without competition was very long. I always kept confidence by continuing training, and by accelerating in July with an individual training camp in the Vosges and a collective training camp in the Ardennes. »
« I'm expecting a very nervous and motivated peloton, with certain very well prepared riders. It could be full gas from the start, without a clear early breakaway. Given the announced heat around 40 degrees, it will be important to stay hydrated and to avoid going early and having to pay for early efforts. Also crashes and mechanicals will have to be avoided, but as we're here with a strong group, I'm convinced that we can achieve a good collective result. »
Quinten Hermans :
« I can't wait to race for the first time in the Circus-Wanty Gobert-Tormans colors. The Strade Bianche offers a special course, typical for cyclocross riders. But as I usually race in cyclocross until the end of February, this beautiful race normally doesn't suit in my programme. So, I'm happy that I fit in the selection in this remodeled calendar. »
« It is of course special for me to discover a first World Tour event and to pin numbers on the Circus-Wanty Gobert-Tormans jersey for the first time. The serious stuff can start! But this restart will be special for the whole peloton. The heat turned the course very dusty and slippery, we've noticed it with the crash of Maurits. It is probably an advantage for cyclocross riders like me, because we can not only loose but also win time in the non asphalted sections. But first of all, I hope to adapt well to the weather circumstances, because I suffered quite a lot from the heat during our first two training sessions. We can expect a hard race. »
Loïc Vliegen :
« I know this race since I participated in 2018. But the circumstances were quite different, with rain and mud. Between the recon in March and the one of Thursday, the terrain has changed a lot. The steering will be completely different on these very dry and slippery sections. But I feel ready for this Strade Bianche after an altitude camp in Livigno and a collective training camp, where I had a good feeling. »
« I start to acclimatize well to the heat, even if it is always more difficult to recover after an effort. The weather will be the same for everyone. It will be better to wait longer before making efforts, although it’s important to stay at the front in order to be able to choose your own trajectory in the gravel sections. I hope to accompany the favorites in the final and to achieve the best possible result, but nobody has reference marks of the level of the competitors. We also have to handle well the heat, the steering, avoiding crashes, … »