Teamwork and guts: Lidl-Trek’s approach to Strade Bianche

The key riders of our men’s and women’s teams share their opinions ahead of the iconic Italian race, on the schedule for Saturday. Here are the previews from Bagioli, Skujiņš and Simmons together with Deignan, Longo Borghini and Van Anrooij.

From the cobbles to the white roads, the WorldTour calendar swaps from Belgium to Italy. On Saturday, March 2nd, the fascinating Strade Bianche will capture global attention with the men’s and women’s races. Its beauty and intrigue will be even greater this year, given the lengthening of the route and the additional gravel sectors; though we won’t know the significance of these changes until the post-race analysis.

Amid so many question marks, Lidl-Trek approaches the challenge with confidence in its selections. At Opening Weekend, a few days ago, Lidl-Trek rolled the dice with early attacks and a demonstration of good form, for both the men’s and the women’s Teams. The aim now is to repeat this.

To get you in the mood for Strade Bianche we asked our key riders how they approach the race and their personal preview.

The Men: Bagioli, Skujins and Simmons

Toms climbing the Kapelmuur, last Saturday at OHN (©CauldPhoto)

Toms Skujiņš

“This is a WorldTour race with a special and unique character. It’s a race that reminds me of strong emotions, like the top ten in 2019, but also the hell of 2020, the year we raced in the extreme heat of August, with over 40°C and my head boiling!

It’s fair to approach this year’s edition with nice expectations, both as a team and on a personal level. The Opening Weekend confirmed me that the condition is there and it’s good. This, together with the experience I have gained over the last years, gives me confidence to try and fight with the best riders. That’s the goal.

We will have a tougher and more exciting race compared with the past, but the main characteristic of Strade Bianche always remains the unpredictability and the difficulty in controlling it. We have to be mentally prepared for this and be able to seize the moment. We have a strong team, and it’s good to have different tactics to play. We saw it already last week in Belgium: not always the strongest rider in the bunch is the one who wins. That can be a good mantra ahead of Saturday.”

Andrea debutted with Lidl-Trek at Volta ao Algarve (©GettyImages)

Andrea Bagioli

“Short but intense climbs and efforts: I like Strade Bianche and that’s the terrain where I can bring out my best. The expectations to do a great race are there. I know I can be really good in one-day races and Saturday will be a good test for my ambitions. I have big targets for 2024, I feel a lot of confidence from the team. Winter has gone well and Volta ao Algarve was a good start to get into a race rhythm. I feel ready for the challenge, the desire to leave a mark is strong.

With the changes to the route, we will have a much tougher race. 4,000 meters of altitude difference in short climbs means that there’s practically no flat. The big unknown remains when the big selection will take place, when we will have the major attacks. In the past the sector of Sante Marie was decisive, but now it is 77km from the finish and perhaps we will have to wait. In any case, it will be essential to manage the energy to arrive in the last 20km with enough reserves for the final challenge, as well as having a good team strategy.”

Ardeche and Drome Classic were the first race in 2024 for Quin (©GettyImages)

Quinn Simmons

“Strade Bianche is the race I look forward to most in the season. In my previous three experiences I learned about the route, its pitfalls, how and where the race can explode, as well as how to play my cards.  I know what to expect and I worked to adjust my approach in the best way. Only on Saturday will we see if the effort I put in has been enough, but I’m confident. Hopefully I’ll wake up with my best legs, I’ll leave my thoughts behind and go into the challenge with maximum motivation.

As a team, this year we’ll have more key riders capable of doing well. It is an advantage to be able to pick the right move with multiple options. I’d love to be the one who make that move, but the goal is to have a Lidl-Trek jersey among the best and I’m ready to play the role it takes to get there. It won’t be easy considering the starting list, but we have to believe in it. Regardless of my personal result, I’ll look for a development as a rider. The new course adds an unknown, but it might not change the story of the race. We have always seen the best riders winning, regardless of the race it’s 180 or 215kms. In the end, maybe the new course will only prolong the show and… our suffering.”

The Women’s race: former winners Deignan and Longo Borghini, plus Van Anrooij

Lizzie at Opening Weekend, her first races of the season (©Twicha)

Lizzie Deignan

“I was happy to finally get my season started with Opening Weekend and I know that with every race I will get stronger. I think as a team we can be happy with how we raced and with the results of Elisa [Longo Borghini] and Shirin. I have a lot of good memories from Strade, especially my win in 2016, and so I am happy to be going back and with this group of riders. We have another strong line up of women for this year’s Strade and, while we might have missed the top step of the podium, I think we can take a lot of confidence out of Het Nieuwsblad and Hageland, and we will be heading to the start line with the same mindset as last weekend.”

Elisa finished 3rd at OHN on Saturday (©GettyImages)

Elisa Longo Borghini

“I expect a more selective race than in the past, especially if the weather is not so good. The final circuit adds a significant variable to the course, especially in the finale. It will not be easy to read it. For sure, it will be a super exciting race to follow and, for us in the peloton, a very unpredictable challenge to face.

I come to Strade Bianche with the confirmations I was good in Belgium, with a lot more confidence. The podium at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad was the signal I wanted on the growth of my condition. I feel that I am not yet at 100% of my level of competitiveness, but I am confident that I can play a role in supporting the team to achieve an important result. At the Opening Weekend Lidl-Trek was really competitive as a collective, not just as individual riders. We know how to manage the race, how to be put our teamwork-based strategy in action. In addition, I think that for the characteristics of our team, Strade Bianche fits better than OHN. In short, we will give a hard time to our competitors until the last meter.”

Shirin was 4th at OHN, behind Elisa (©GettyImages)

Shirin van Anrooij

“I was super happy about my start to the Classics season. It was an unexpected call up to my first Opening Weekend but I’m really proud of the way I raced and how we raced as a team. It was an amazing feeling to be back fighting at the front of a race again and to finish fourth in my debut Omloop Het Nieuwsblad is something I am proud of. Strade Bianche is a race I really enjoy. I always want to race well here so I am super motivated for this weekend. We have another really strong team ready to take on the beautiful (and sometimes brutal) white roads and I think we can be confident in our abilities and chances.”