Weekend's lineups in France, Italy
Twice podium finisher in 'Course to the Sun' -runner-up in 2005, 3rd in 2012- seeks to maintain streak alive after Andalucía triumph. Amador, Bennati lead Strade Bianche roster on Saturday
UPDATE (Friday 3): Valverde, Bennati not racing
Two weeks after claiming his fifth GC success -and his 100th pro victory– in the Vuelta a Andalucía, Alejandro Valverde will be back in Movistar Team outfit for the 75th edition of Paris-Nice (5-12 March), a race he'll compete at five years after claimind 3rd overall, a stage win and the points jersey in 2012. The man from Murcia will lead an eight-man squad completely devoted to supporting the Spaniard: Jesús and José Herrada, Rory Sutherland, Imanol Erviti, Winner Anacona, Marc Soler and Gorka Izagirre will be at Bala's side, with José Luis Arrieta and José Luis Laguía as sports directors.
The French event includes four likely sprint finishes, the winds set to play an important role in the French Centre region; a 14km ITT up the Mont Brouilly, on Wednesday 8th; two uphill finishes in Fayence (Friday 10th) and the Col de la Couillole (Saturday 11th); and a demanding showdown around Nice, featuring the Col d'Eze, on the final Sunday of racing.
In turn, a second block commanded by José Luis Jaimerena will be heading to Tuscany for the 11th Strade Bianche, now into the WorldTour calendar and remaining as old-style as usual with its eleven 'sterrato' – gravel road sections (62km) over a 175-kilometer in Siena. Local Daniele Bennati and Costa Rica's Andrey Amador will be the main references for an otherwise young group that includes Jorge Arcas, Nuno Bico, Richard Carapaz, Carlos Betancur, Antonio Pedrero and recent Volta ao Alentejo overall victor Carlos Barbero.