Most of us first heard about the Strade Bianche in 2007. That was the first year when the race was included in the UCI Europe Tour classification. It was a minor race back then, but has gradually begun to increase in status. In fact, it has already achieved the reputation of a real classic. The race is kind of mix between Paris–Roubaix and Liège–Bastogne–Liège. The riders race for 184km, and a third of the race is on unsurfaced roads and cobblestones. There are also a lot of short, sharp climbs, which means this race is suited to the more all-round riders who can handle their bikes well.

Recent editions have been won by riders such as Fabian Cancellara, Michal Kwiatkowski, Zdenek Stybar and Tiesj Benoot. The best Dutchman in recent years was Tom Dumoulin: he was 5th in 2017. There are also some interesting names on the start line in 2019. We take a look at four serious contenders.

Zdenek Stybar, former winner of the Strade Bianche

Zdenek Stybar has won this race before. In 2015 he was the first to cross the finish line, but we have to admit the field of riders was not as strong then as it is now. Since 2017, the race has been part of the UCI World Tour and that means all World Tour teams can take part. But Stybar could certainly win again. He begun his 2019 spring campaign with an excellent victory in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, so he is clearly in form. And his team is rock-solid, so he is for sure one of the big favourites.

Zdenek Stybar winning Strade Bianche in 2015. Photograph: Cor Vos.

Tim Wellens

Lotto–Soudal rider Tim Wellens has also had a good start to his spring 2019 campaign. He has already won two minor races in Spain and showed his good side by finishing 3rd in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. He also has ridden Strade Bianche well in the past, finishing 3rd in 2017, which was the only time he has ridden the event. In 2018 he skipped the race after a sub-par performance in the Omloop. Hopefully he will be up with the best in 2019.

Strade Bianche

Wellens (second from right) during the 2017 edition of the Strade. Photograph: Cor Vos.

Wout van Aert

Wout van Aert will ride his debut for Team Jumbo–Visma during the 2019 edition of the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Towards the end of the race his missed the required punch, perhaps due to his busy cyclocross season. But that doesn’t mean he’s not ready for a strong spring 2019. In 2018, he came a heroic 3rd in the race, after ending the Omloop is 32nd spot. In 2019, van Aert achived 13th in the Omloop, however, which might just indicate that he can get an even better result in 2019…

Van Aert kapot na zijn deelname aan Strade Bianche in 2018. Photograph: Cor Vos

Greg van Avermaet

Just like Alejandro Valverde, who has sadly called in sick on the 2019 edition of the Strade, Greg van Avermaet is pretty much in the list of favourites of every one-day race he signs up for. He looked strong in the Omloop this year, but was continually attacked by other riders. Hopefully he can show more of what he is capable of during the latest edition of the Strade. It’s a race that suits him: he has finished the race twice in 2nd place, in 2017 and 2015. The outright victory has proven illusive, however, so perhaps he can do something about that in 2019.

Van Avermaet on the attack on the white gravel in 2015. Photograph: Cor Vos.

The Strade Bianche takes place on Saturday, 9th of March and can be seen on TV in the Low Countries on Eurosport and Belgian channel Éen.

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