Team BikeExchange will bring a team packed with climbers acquired during the off-season but the team leader will be one of the constants who has been with the Greenedge cycling setup since its inception, Amanda Spratt.
Trofeo Alfredo Binda, named in the honour of the great Italian cyclist from the 1920s and 30s, is the only Women's WorldTour race this weekend, and will attract most of the big names within the sport to the startline in Varese.
“2019 Trofeo brings great memories for me when I finished second," said Spratt. "It’s always a race that I love, and it really feels like a home race because I have spent so many hours training on these roads over my career, plus it’s close to our team base.
"For these reasons I’m always at the start line with such high motivation for a good result. I’ve often had good performances at this race and been close before with fourth but to finally be on the podium actually felt quite emotional."
Spratt was a member of the team, this time acting as a domestique in support of Grace Brown as she took second behind Amy Pieters at the recent Danilith Nokere Koerse.
“It was great to be back with the team in Nokere," said Spratt. "I left there with good feelings and especially seeing how strong the team were with Grace’s second place. I like to mix my role in the team, so it was good to be a support rider there and the legs felt quite ok. It was of course very different to Binda, but I expect with a couple of easier days the condition will be good for Sunday."
Spratt will take to the startline with fellow Australian climber Lucy Kennedy for company, alongside Janneke Ensing, Ane Santesteban, Georgia Williams and Urška Žigart. Aside from the exclusion of Brown, it's probably the strongest climbing team that Team BikeExchange can field at a race, the multiple options potentially providing a way to counter the normal numbers of the top team SD-Worx in the finale.
“I think we line-up with a really strong team for this race," said Spratt. "I am excited to race with Urška for the first time. It’s great to see Georgia back in the kind of form she was in a couple of years ago and together with Lucy, Ane and Janneke I think we can aim to have a hard race and good numbers in the last few laps to take our chances.
"I think this race can suit someone willing to take an opportunity and so I’m excited to see what we can achieve together and play the game well with our numbers all the way to the line.”
One rider who'll be looking to take any opportunity available to her with both hands is 20-year-old Aussie sensation Sarah Gigante who'll be lining up for her 2021 European debut. Gigante only managed three UCI race days last year in Europe before flying back to Australia and hopes to enjoy every race on her schedule this time without putting too much pressure on herself.
“I think I’ll just have to see how it goes,” Gigante told . “I just want to make sure that I keep enjoying it, so definitely I won’t stress too much about the results this year.
"I’ll just try and be a good teammate and give it my best shot. I definitely always like lining up in a race and giving it my best go, but I think it is a year of learning for me.“
Gigante has been a top rider on the domestic scene for the past few years, and has extended that form to the national championships, even with the presence of the quality of the Team BikeExchange riders present. However, 2021 represents a new challenge as she looks to adapt to the larger pelotons, different racing styles and consistently higher levels of competitors.
"This will be my first time going overseas for such a long chunk of time and COVID definitely makes it a little bit trickier for my first real season, because last year I won’t really count," said Gigante. "I feel like I am a neo-pro this year because I was only overseas for about three weeks last year.”
Sunday's race may come a bit soon for the two-time Australian national time trial champion, she's only recently arrived in Europe. Gigante's progress will be keenly watched by many from Australia, and while names like Spratt, Kennedy and the like have forged successful careers on the WorldTour stage, the Victorian youngster has shown signs that she'll be looking to match it with the established stars sooner rather than later.