Tom Pidcock will wear the team leader’s dossard in Ineos Grenadiers’ Strade Bianche squad on Saturday.
It is the first time he has received the honour of having his name ‘first’ on the team list since he signed for Ineos.
Pidcock heads up a decent Ineos team, with Egan Bernal also on the startlist. Quite what the Colombian climbing ace can achieve in a race of Strade Bianche’s character remains to be seen, although who can forget Romain Bardet’s pivot to muddy-climby classics guy at this very race a couple of editions back?
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Michal Kwiatkowski is perhaps the most exciting name below Pidcock’s, giving the team a second option for the win – or providing Pidcock with a very able lieutenant.
Owain Doull will start his season in Tuscany, as will Pavel Sivakov. While the former is a proven classics specialist, Sivakov is really more of a GC talent – and his inclusion alongside Bernal’s points to this being part of the British team’s preparation for the Giro.
Pidcock, then, will not have a full squad of classics expertise to assist him as he attempts to do the unprecedented: winning Strade Bianche in his first road season as a professional.
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Why does it matter that Pidcock will wear 131 and not 135, the number he would get if he was placed in the regular alphabetical order? Simply, it’s the best indication we get that a rider is the designated leader of the team.
Over Opening Weekend, the team list was provided in strict alphabetical order, and Ineos only tend to deviate from this approach when one of their marquee riders is in action. Geraint Thomas got the first spot on the team sheet in the Tour des Alpes Maritimes et du Var, for example. It is thought that, given his extensive background in MTB and cyclocross, the gravel sections of the Tuscan white roads that give the race its name will suit Pidcock perfectly. Indeed, it is not unlikely we'll see an all-cyclocross podium tomorrow, given the presence also of Mathieu van der Poel and Wout van Aert on the startlist.
Gianni Moscon seemed extremely reticent to offer up any assistance to his teammates in the closing moments of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, after his own solo attack failed. Whether this was simply because he was knackered, or due to some underlying conflict about who ought to get the team leadership, is no longer an issue. The Italian is out of Strade Bianche with a fractured wrist, leaving Pidcock firmly in the driving seat.
A quick look at the full Ineos roster throws up a couple of names that would make it into most WorldTeams’ classics squads but who are not in action tomorrow, Luke Rowe and Ben Swift. Both British riders do well when the racing is hard, and Rowe is widely respected for his expertise as a road captain as well as his big engine and canny crosswind riding. Rowe will not start his season until later this month in the Belgian cobbled classics he loves so much before a tilt at Roubaix, while Ben Swift seems to have slipped off the radar somewhat after starting his season in southern France for the Tour de la Provence.
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