No Egan Bernal but Ineos Grenadiers rumble towards Strade Bianche with a stellar team around Tom Pidcock

'Of course, it will add a target on my back but it doesn’t change how I go into the race' says defending champion Pidcock

Clock10:11, Friday 1st March 2024
Tom Pidock (Ineos Grenadiers) won Strade Bianche in 2023

© Getty Images

Tom Pidock (Ineos Grenadiers) won Strade Bianche in 2023

Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) will look to defend his Strade Bianche title on Saturday with the British rider spearheading a team that includes two-time winner Michal Kwiatkowski and former Tour de France champion, Geraint Thomas

Pidcock has built his form steadily over the last few weeks, picking up a couple of top-ten placings and sixth overall at the Volta ao Algarve before finishing a respectable eighth at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad last weekend.

“I feel excited just like I did last year. I’ve had a really good run up to the race, a long training block and few races to start the year where I’ve been steadily building up,” the 2023 winner said in a statement released by his team on Monday.

“It’s interesting going into a race when you’re the previous winner, but I don’t feel pressure, it is what it is. Of course, it will add a target on my back but it doesn’t change how I go into the race.”

The men’s and women’s races have been altered ahead of Saturday's showdowns with extra gravel roads added to what were already considered hard-fought and demanding courses. The men’s field will now race 215km with 71.5km of those consisting of 15 gravel sectors. Pidcock, along with most riders and experts, is expecting a more strenuous race as a result, especially through the new sectors at Strada del Castagno and Montechiaro.

“The change in course this year is certainly going to change the dynamic of the race a lot. The race wasn’t crying out for extra kilometres so it will make it that extra bit harder that’s for sure. 40 km from Le Tolfe feels a long way!”

Joining Thomas will be a strong line-up that includes veteran Geraint Thomas, who is making his Strade Bianche debut, and Kwiatkowski, who won the race in 2014 and 2017.

Egan Bernal, who was third overall in O Gran Camiño was initially down for the Italian one-day race but is now focussing on Paris-Nice, which starts a day later, on Sunday.

Magnus Sheffield, who recently signed a new two-year contract extension with the team has also made the squad, along with Thymen Arensman, Kim Heiduk, and Salvatore Puccio.

For more of the latest racing news and updates, visit our racing news page.

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