The reigning world champion will be lining up in Siena this weekend for the 2021 edition of Strade Bianche, as he hopes to overcome Mathieu van der Poel and Wout Van Aert to repeat his victory of two years ago.
Alaphilippe (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) said racing over the gravel roads of Tuscany is as important to him as racing in Monument one-day races like Paris-Roubaix and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
Speaking via Zoom call ahead of Saturday’s race, the 28-year-old said: “For me it’s one of the most beautiful races. I really love this race. It was always nice to watch on the television, before I did it for the first time. I was so happy to discover the race, and to win [in 2019].
“It’s a race for me that’s as important as a Monument. It’s a really beautiful race, alway spectacular.
“Maybe not a Monument, but it deserves it.”
Alaphilippe will be continuing his spring Classics campaign in Italy, having made his debut in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad last weekend, where he raced aggressively to set up his team-mate Davide Ballerini for victory.
But to repeat his 2019 Strade win, Alaphilippe will need to better the dual threats of Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) and last year’s winner Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma).
Van der Poel has already reached the top step this season on the opening stage of the UAE Tour and was major protagonist in both Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne and Le Samyn.
Strade Bianche will be Van Aert’s first road race of the season after an intense winter in cyclocross, with his team down-playing his chances in Tuscany.
The bookies have Van der Poel as favourite to win this year’s edition, while Van Aert and Alaphilippe are next in line.
Alaphilippe said: “For sure they are two of the favourites, that’s clear.
“You can see the shape of Mathieu van der Poel in the last couple of days.
“It’s also a beautiful race that suits Mathieu van der Poel perfectly.
“Wout Van Aert won last year and he was really strong, so even if it’s his first race, he can also win the race.”
Alaphilippe’s team boss Patrick Lefevere has previously shared some insight into Deceuninck-Quick-Step’s tactics to beat Van der Poel and Van Aert, saying “You know what wolves do with their victims? They isolate them.”
Deceuninck will be taking a combination of Classics specialists and climbers to support Alaphilippe, including Joâo Almeida, Kasper Asgreen and Zdenek Štybar.
Alaphilippe added: “From my side, I’m just so happy to take to the start on Saturday with a big motivation.
“We have a strong team so we have to be smart and in the end it’s a really hard race, so the legs talk.”
This content was originally published here.
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