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SIENA, Italy (VN) — Michal Kwiatkowski is not taking anything for granted when it comes to trying to win a third Strade Bianche title Saturday in Tuscany.
The Polish leader of Team Sky arrived early to spend time on the gravel and dirt roads south of Siena, where he won the race in 2014 and in 2017. Conditions weren’t perfect last year when he powered to victory in the finale, but things have only gotten wetter for the 12th edition of the race.
Kwiatkowski took to Twitter and Instagram to post his adventures through the snow and mud Wednesday and Thursday.
“I rode on Wednesday, I think that was the best idea. We first thought to come on Thursday, but with the weather forecasted was horrible with so much snow, we decided to come on Wednesday and I did five-hour ride,” he said at the pre-race press conference.
“I’ve never did such a long recon of Strade Bianche. It was a really good decision.
“I rode with Gianni Moscon, Salvatore Puccio and Leonardo Basso. The conditions are completely different than now, and tomorrow again. We have some snow on the roads, but it’s going to be muddier tomorrow and as they say, not so much snow.”
Romain Bardet, who rented an AirBnB apartment before the rest of his Ag2r La Mondiale team arrived in Tuscany, was another big name getting in plenty of pre-race mileage this week.
World championship Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) instead arrived from a high-altitude camp in Spain via Monaco without a serious look at the 184-kilometer course. It includes 63 kilometers of gravel roads spread over 11 sectors.
“I didn’t ride on the route beforehand,” Sagan said. “I arrived yesterday and it was raining so I did the rollers. That’s all. Knowing the route could be important but we have a lot of time during race to see how the conditions are.”
A storm blowing in from Siberia, the so-called “Beast of the East”, brought in an unusual heavy blanket of snow twice this week. Now that the temperatures have climbed to around 50°F, conditions have changed to heavy rain. The combination of rain and melting snow is turning the roads into a thick mud.
“It’s better not to think about it, for everyone it’s going to be the same,” said Sagan. “What can I change about it?”
“I trained quite a lot in Poland [in these conditions], especially in November and December,” added Kwiatkowski.
“I don’t have the best memories, but in Milano-Sanremo when we stopped before Turchino climb [in 2013], I remember 30-year-old men crying and screaming from the pain. That was unique, but I think it’s going to be another level in the mud. Let’s hope the temps will be a bit higher than what we had in Sanremo. If it’s more than 5°C [41°F] we should be all right.”