Rouleur predicts… Strade Bianche


After the success of Top Mañana and Tomorrow’s Worlds, we’ve expanded the franchise of our popular race prediction game to cover all men’s and women’s WorldTour races throughout 2020.

The Rouleur team will be spending hours each week poring over form guides, weather forecasts and stages profiles, all in an inevitably fruitless attempt to give themselves some sort of edge over their rivals.

After an extended hiatus due to a certain global pandemic, normal service (or as normal as we can manage, what with one thing and another) resumes with Strade Bianche.

Our old adversary, the Cycling Mole, is once again on hand to rain on our parades, taking us to task and mercilessly mocking our selections.

Women's Route
Strade Bianche women's route

Men's Route
Men's Strade Bianche

The race: 
Whether you see it as the unofficial 6th Monument or not, there could be no more fitting races to resume with than two triumphant tours of Tuscany. Both women's and men's startlists are as strong as those you'll find in any one-day race this year.

The race starts in Siena and finishes in the same city's historic Piazza del Campo. It will look a little different this year, with the public prevented from accessing the fabled square, though that will surely not reduce the significance of the result for the winners.

The women's race will feature 30km of white roads across its 136 km length, while the men will be kicking up dust for 63km of their 184.

Although the course includes no major climbs, the total upward pedaling (technical term) for the course is still 3000+ metres, so it's not one for the sprinters, either.  

A little warmer than it was back in March - tomorrow's forecast is for 36°C compared to the 12°C that it was in the race's originally spot - which might be expected to advantage the natives over the northerners. Have our panelists taken that into account?

Women's startlist
Men's startlist

Strade Bianche

Nick Christian:
Women's: Anna Van Der Breggan (Boels Dolmans)

How much should we read into the second first race of the season? It was all a bit plus ça change, wasn't it? My dark horse pick would be Liane Lippert but hard to see past the double Dutchwomen, both of whom have won this race before, so I'm gonna go for... the other one.

Men's: Wout Van Aert (Jumbo Visma)
Tempted as I am by MVDP, I'm not putting my money on a rider who's never ridden Strade Bianche before. Instead I'm betting on his Belgian counterpart, Wout, who's podiumed twice before, to be no more the nearly man.
Annemiek Van VleutenMiles Baker-Clarke
Women's: Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton Scott)
After her frankly ludicrous escape at last year's World Championships, we would be foolish to bet against her. I'm looking forward to a similar shocker on this - rather unusual - season opener. Let's hope she's not been sat on the sofa eating Stroopwafels
Men's: Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck Quick Step)
Seeing as he took the title last year, it feels like the cop-out option to go with Julian, but with his sights surely set on another stellar Tour performance, his engines will need to be firing. What better way to get the ball moving than with a win from the breakaway? 
Wout Van Aertt 
Andy McGrath
Women's: Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo)
There's no getting around the fact Van Vleuten is the woman to beat, but this former winner won't be far off. She always races enterprisingly, and an audacious, pre-emptive move might be just the ticket here.
Men's: Tiesj Benoot (Sunweb)
When you haven't the foggiest about the formbook, go with the stats. The Flandrian has never finished outside the top 8 in four starts here and won it in 2018. The big question is, will he melt in the 35-degree heat?
Kasia NiewiadomaIan Cleverly
Women's: Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM)
The women’s race has run five times to date. Niewiadoma has been there or thereabouts in every single edition, including being runner-up three years in a row - a phenomenal hit rate. She’s got the chops, just needs the breaks.
Men's: Jakob Fuglsang (Astana)
The experienced Dane did everything right at Strade last year, bar beating Alaphilippe up the brutal incline to the Piazza del Campo - but that’s a tall order for anyone. He’s got unfinished business here, for sure.
Jakob Fuglsang
Stuart J Clapp
Women's: Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton Scott)
Why? Because she’s World Champion. She’s also rapid and even if it wasn’t a bike race, say a highly competitive game of chess or bar billiards or something, I’d still back her to win.

Men's: Ben Swift (Team Ineos)
I’ve seen, via an undisclosed source, just how well he’s going at the moment. I know that he’ll be there in support of either Mosco - seeing as it’s his home race - or Kwiatkowski - seeing as he’s won it before - but these are unprecedented times. And honestly, who knows how well any of these guys are going. First British winner of Strade Binache will be Ben Swift. You heard it here first. Even his name sounds fast.
Ben Swift
The Cycling Mole's verdict
Have you missed me? The coronavirus robbed me the chance of regularly poking fun at the esteemed Rouleur writers. I wonder how they’ve spent the lockdown. I bet there was plenty of tending to the vegetable patch, knitting new cardigans, perfecting the humus [I think you'll find the acceptable spellings are "hummus", "houmous" or "hoummos" - Ed.] recipe and drinking lots of negroni. Over the in the real world, I was the home school king! Anyway, time to jump back on the bike and put the team firmly in their place.

Strade Bianche is a modern-day classic, I don’t care what anyone says. This year we get to see it in 37-degree heat, which will have a huge impact on the race. Some of the Belgian boys will not cope very well, but given the amount of time everyone spends at altitude these days it might not have too much of an impact.

I’ll deal with the women’s race first. All the picks are strong and there’s nothing for me to laugh at. You would expect to see the names Annemiek van Vleuten, Anna Van Der Breggen and Longo Borghini. If you’ve been paying attention to the recent racing you would have seen that van Vleuten just won three races in the space of four days over in Spain. If you aren’t picking here you have a problem. She is my pick to dominate the race.

The men’s race is much harder to predict, as we have a glittering start list full of amazing puncheurs. Remember, a proper climber has never won this race. Miles is going for Alaphilippe to defend his title, but the Frenchman has been saying that he won’t be at his best at the start of the season. Andy has gone with my old mate Tiesj Benoot, who just happens to be my mum’s favourite cyclist. Tiesj will go well, but he is a little worried about the heat. Ian is going with Fuglsang, the Dane finished second last year. I expect to see him in the mix again this year, but climbers don’t win this race. I would like to welcome Stuart J Clapp to the tipping contest, I’m not sure why he needs the J. More importantly, what does the J stand for? Judging by his pick of Ben Swift I suspect it stands for Joker. I presume the undisclosed source is Ben Swift’s dad. Put it this way, if Ben Swift wins Strade Bianche I’ll buy everyone a pint.
Mathieu van der PoelThen we have old Nick, who is going for Wout van Aert. This is a pick I have a lot of time for, my only slight concern is that Jumbo-Visma don’t have the strongest team here. Van Aert is an incredible prospect, but sometimes gets forgotten about thanks to Mathieu van der Poel. What I can’t believe is that no one has picked the main man. I’ll happy pick him as the race winner, even though other teams are bound to put pressure on him during the finale.

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