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Can anyone stop Tadej Pogačar at Strade Bianche?

Brandon McNulty to race as co-leader at Paris-Nice as UAE Emirates ramps up for big block of European racing.

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Tadej Pogačar is roaring hot into 2022, and will be a five-star favorite for Saturday’s Strade Bianche.

UAE Team Emirates confirmed Pogačar will see strong support as the team brings a packed squad to the iconic Italian one-day classic. Diego Ulissi and Alessandro Covi, already a winner of two races in 2022, will provide two extra cards to play on the gravel roads of Tuscany.

“It’s no secret that Strade is a race I really like and would love to win,” Pogačar said Thursday. “We’ll also have Covi who is on great form and experienced guys like Ulissi too, so we’re well covered.”

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Pogačar is hot off winning the UAE Tour on “home” roads of the team sponsors, and makes his 2022 European debut at Strade Bianche, with a title defense on the line at Tirreno-Adriatico next week.

The two-time Tour de France winner has raced Strade Bianche every year since 2019, finishing better at each run across the gravel, with 30th and 13th, respectively, before cracking into the top-10 last year with seventh.

Pogačar is burnishing his credentials as a superb stage racer, but among his 33 career victories so far in his young career, he’s also adding some one-day racing wins to his palmarès, with victory at Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Il Lombardia.

He will expand his repertoire this spring, with scheduled starts at Milano-Sanremo, Dwars door Vlaanderen, and Tour of Flanders before heading into the Ardennes. Wins at any one of those races would not come as a surprise.

After Strade, Pogačar dives straight into Tirreno, which he won in 2021.

“After the UAE Tour we stayed there for a few days more and now we’re back in Europe and ready and hungry for the next races,” Pogačar said.  “I raced quite a lot in Italy last year and it’s somewhere I really enjoy. The reception from the ‘tifosi’ is always special, and the food is amazing. too.

“Tirreno-Adriatico was a big victory in my career last year and one I hold dear, I’m excited to go back there,” he said. “They have changed the race format a little bit from last year but as always it will be long and hard stages every day.”

Pascal Ackermann will be looking for his first win in a UAE jersey, while Davide Formolo and Marc Soler also line up in Italy.

Brandon McNulty to co-lead at Paris-Nice

Brandon McNulty, already a winner twice in 2022, will co-lead at Paris-Nice. (Photo by Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

UAE Team Emirates officials also confirmed that Brandon McNulty will be co-leader at Paris-Nice, along with João Almeida.

McNulty is on a tear in the early days of 2022, winning two one-day races and finishing second to Remco Evenepoel at the Volta ao Algarve in February. Last year, McNulty was poised for a podium spot at Paris-Nice when he crashed out of stage 6.

Almeida will make his European debut in his new team colors at Paris-Nice. The Portuguese star rode to fifth behind Pogačar at the UAE Tour.

Strade Bianche – March 5
Mikkel Bjerg (Den)
Alessandro Covi (Ita)
Maximiliano Richeze (Arg)
Vegard Stake Laengen (Nor)
Tadej Pogačar (Slo)
Marc Soler (Spa)
Diego Ulissi (Ita)

Tirreno-Adriatico – March 7-13
Pascal Ackermann (Ger)
Mikkel Bjerg (Den)
Davide Formolo (Ita)
Rafal Majka (Po)
Tadej Pogačar (Slo)
Marc Soler (Spa)
Maximiliano Richeze (Arg)

Paris-Nice – March 6-13
Joao Almeida (Por)
Alexys Brunel (Fra)
Finn Fisher-Black (NZL)
Brandon McNulty (USA)
Sebastian Molano (Col)
Jan Polanc (Slo)
Matteo Trentin (Ita)