Matej Mohorič starts his season as one of the leading cards for Bahrain Victorious to play across three Italian one-day races this week, including Saturday’s Strade Bianche where he finished in the top 20 last year despite multiple flats.
When Mohorič opens up the racing at Trofeo Laigueglia (1.Pro) on Wednesday he will be targeting a likely small group sprint, along with teammates Pello Bilbao and Mikel Landa, before then taking on the white gravel roads of Strade Bianche, where he will also share leadership with Spanish teammate Bilbao.
“To win in Siena has been my dream since I first saw the race on TV. This year I will pay extra attention to my equipment and hope for some luck after three flats last year,” said Mohorič who was the highest place finisher for the team in 2020 with 19th place. “I hope to do well on the gravel sections and the climbs, arrive at the finish climb and fight for the win.”
The former junior and under 23 world champion will be facing up to a stacked field at the third race of the 2021 men’s WorldTour, including world champion Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep), Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) as well as defending champion Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) and Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) who will be making their season debut.
“We have an excellent team, but we have to be proactive and aggressive right from the beginning,” said Bahrain Victorious sports director Gorazd Štangelj of the 184 kilometre race on March 6.
Last March, Strade Bianche was one of the first races to be postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with the event instead run in August, when Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) won alone in Piazza del Campo di Siena after attacking with 13km to go. Organisers RCS Sport confirmed the races are to be held on Saturday despite Siena and the area including many of the dirt road sections of the race going into lockdown after an increase in cases of the so-called ‘British’ and ‘Brazilian’ variants of the coronavirus. However there will be further restrictions on crowds at the start, finish, and along the race route.
After Strade Bianche, Mohorič and the team will turn their attention to the GP Industria & Artigianato, with its eight laps over two different ring roads around Larciano. The Bahrain Victorious rider won the race in 2018, his first year of riding for the team, using a late attack and flying descent to give him enough room to hold off the chase on the flat run into the line.
The rider said he may have lost the ability to rely on the element of surprise that helped him in 2018, he will attempt to use a different approach to repeat the victory as he relies on pre-season training to deliver him to those early season start lines with race-winning form.
“During the winter break, I worked harder than ever before and was determined to start the new season in the best shape,” said Mohorič.