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Pogacar launches his Giro-Tour bid at Italy's Strade Bianche

Tadej Pogacar opens his season this Saturday at the Strade Bianche as preparation for his assault on a Giro d'Italia and Tour de France double

Pogacar leaves rivals in the dust with stunning solo attack at Strade  Bianche

The two-time Tour de France winner has stated he is "racing to win" in Siena, on the iconic white gravel classic in Italy this weekend. Tour de France stage nine near Troyes in July will feature 32km of gravel sections for the first time.

The Slovenian is using the early spring race as preparation to contest the Giro for the first time in May. He won Strade Bianch in 2022 after a stunning attack 50 km from the finisg to ride alone after dropping all of his rivals.

The race is renowned for its billowing clouds of dust from the "White Roads" and brutally steep climb up via Santa Caterina leading to the Piazza del Campo finish line at Siena.

Defending champion Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) started his season with a strong result at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad last weekend, finishing only seconds off the pace. Pidcock attacked his rivals at Strade Bianche last year with 50km to go - in a move similar to Pogacar in 2022.

"We did a good job as a team and I got ourselves in the right position," he said. "We can build on that."

Pogacar stated "It's going to be a long season, including two Grand Tours, so new territory for me in that regard,"  as he prepares to take back the title from Danish rival Jonas Vingegaard.

"I've been patient and taken a bit of a slower approach to this year," the Team UAE leader said, "There will be lots of big rivals, but we're racing to win."

No Wout van Aert nor Mathieu van der Poel 

Neither Wout van Aert nor Mathieu van der Poel are on the start-list but two-time former world champion and former Strade Bianche winner Julian Alaphilippe is on the start sheet for his sixth consecutive participation.

His Soudal Quick-Step sports director Davide Bramati said the Belgian team were going into the race with two leaders, Alaphilippe and Danish classics ace Kasper Asgreen, "We are motivated for what is one of the most beautiful races of the year," he said. "Julian and Kasper are two riders who between them have finished three times on the podium here, and we are hoping for a good result."

In 2019, Alaphilippe won after a brutal attack on the 16 percent gradients of the Santa Caterina climb into the Siena town square just 500m from the finish line.

The race has been lengthened to 215km this season with more gravel sections and a loop to allow cycling fans to enjoy more of the race up close.

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