Mitchelton-SCOTT head to the white roads of Tuscany

Wed 6 Mar 2019

After a difficult opening weekend of classics racing in Belgium, Mitchelton-SCOTT move onto Italy for another one-day classic as they tackle the ‘white roads’ of Strade Bianche.

Australian Luke Durbridge will be looking to build on the form that saw him at the sharp-end of both Omploop Het Nieusblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, while Dane Chris Juul-Jensen is also back in action after a hard couple of days racing in Belgium.

2019 signing Nick Shultz will make his European racing debut for the team after a strong start to the season that saw him claim a stage at the Herald Sun Tour. The team is completed by four more new signings, with American Brent Bookwalter and neo-pro Callum Scotson both returning from the UAE Tour, while Italian Edoardo Affini and youngster Rob Stannard both line-up for the squad after getting their first taste of classics racing last weekend.

Mitchelton-SCOTT Team:
Edoardo Affini (ITA, 22)
Brent Bookwalter (USA, 35)
Luke Durbridge (AUS, 27)
Chris Juul-Jensen (DEN, 29)
Callum Scotson (AUS, 22)
Nick Schultz (AUS, 22) 
Rob Stannard (AUS, 20)

The Course:
The 184km course in the Tuscany hills is littered with gravel roads and short, punchy climbs that make for an action-packed day of racing.

The peloton will tackle 11 sectors of gravel roads, the first of which comes at 17.6km into the day. By that time a breakaway should have already broken clear on the undulating roads out of Siena.

The first major test for the bunch will come after 25 kilometres of racing as the riders face the 5.8km long sector two. The gravel section will dip downhill briefly before the road ramps up and reaches gradients of over 10%.

After passing through the town of Torrenieri the peloton will face sectors five (11.9km) and six (8km) in quick succession. Both are technically demanding, featuring climbs and descents, as well as a number of tricky corners for the pack to negotiate.

The hardest section of gravel road comes after the riders pass through Ponte del Garbo, where sector eight begins. At 11.5km, it’s the longest off-road section of the race and contains several tough hills and in particular, the demanding Monte Sante Marie climb.

The penultimate sector will see the riders climb towards Colle Pinzuto whilst battling gradients of up to 15% and while the final section of white roads is only short at 1.1km, it features a sequence of a demanding descents followed by a steep ramp that maxes out at 18%.

The gravel sectors may be done with, but there are still punishing climbs to deal with in the closing kilometres. As the riders reach the city of Siena the road heads upwards once more for the final climb towards the finish line in the scenic Piazza del Campo.

The Competition:
The race is one that can be won by classic specialists and climbers alike as the list of past winners demonstrates. Last year’s winner Tiesj Benoot (Lotto Soudal) is back and will be looking to put a difficult start to the classics in Belgium behind him.

Another former winner, Zdenek Stybar (Deceuninck - Quick Step) has proved he has the form after winning Omploo Het Nieuwsblad last weekend and his teammate Julian Alaphilippe will be another man to watch. Greg Van Avermaet (CCC Team) can never be ruled for any one day classic race and fellow Belgian, and surprise of the 2018 race, Wout van Aert (Team Jumbo-Visma) will also be a danger.

The Past:
Mitchelton-SCOTT have twice finished sixth at Strade Bianchi, once with former rider Robert Power last season and the other with Durbridge in 2017. Juul-Jensen also had a strong ride in 2017, finishing just behind his teammate in eighth.

Luke Durbridge:
“I’m really looking forward to it, it’s a beautiful race, the Italian ‘white roads’ and you race along the hills of Tuscany and it’s one that I’ve gone well at in the past.”

“It’s a new race that hasn’t been around for very long, but I think it will be one of those big Monuments in many years to come.”    

“It’s very hard, it’s quite hilly and very technical, but it’s a race that I really, really do enjoy, so I’m hoping we can do a good performance as a team there.”

“Opening weekend was good even though the team didn’t have the results that we would have liked, but we had some pretty bad luck, Trentin had two crashes over two days and we we’re just a little bit on the back foot when it really mattered."

“But the team showed that we worked really well, and that’s the funny thing about these races, it’s really tricky for everyone to get together and everyone ride in good position and all ride as a team, it’s not as easy as other races.”

Gene Bates – Sports Director:

“We’re not red-hot favourites coming into this race, which I think we can use to our advantage to a certain extent.”

“We’ve got a couple of guys in Durbridge and Juul-Jensen who have both run top 10 here before not that long ago, so they already know what it takes to achieve a good result here.”

“They’ve both had very good build-ups in the pre-season and already last weekend they were prominent at Omloop and Kuurne, so we’re confident we can have a really good ride with those two guys.”

“If it’s wet it’s a very tricky race to handle, the long-term forecast looks dry, but you just never know so we’ll go in prepared for either scenario.”

“It’s a particularly hilly race, so typically you see more climbers at the pointy end of the races as appose to the cobbled classics, but there is an element of crossover where you can get the classics guys going very well and also the climbers being competitive.”

2019 Strade Bianche – Race Details
Saturday, 9th March: Siena – Siena, 184km

- Photo courtesy of Getty Images.