This year’s edition of the Italian one-day race, taking place on Saturday (March 6), features some of the biggest names, including race favourites Mathieu van der Poel and Julian Alaphilippe.
But Jumbo-Visma rider Van Aert says it’s wise to be wary of more than just Van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) and Alaphilippe (Deceuninck – Quick-Step), with the likes of Jakob Fuglsang, Tadej Pogačar, and Egan Bernal all set to race.
Speaking after his recon of the course earlier this week, 26-year-old Van Aert said: “Alaphilippe and Van der Poel are two guys you definitely have to keep an eye on, but there are lot more strong riders in this race than in the Opening Weekend.
“It’s one of the strongest fields we’ve seen over the year so I think it’s wise to keep an eye on more guys.”
He added: “It’s probably the strongest fields in a one-day race. Traditionally there are a lot of climbers in this race – guys like Fuglsang [Astana-Premier Tech] and Pogačar [UAE Team Emirates] now, and Bernal [Ineos Grenadiers].
“It shows how much importance this race has.”
Van Aert will be making his 2021 debut on the road on Saturday, after an intensive winter cyclocross season.
The Belgian has been training in Tenerife for the last three weeks, where he has been racking up Strava KoMs on a number of tough, steep climbs.
Van Aert’s team have been eager to down-play their star rider’s chances of victory in Siena, saying he will not be at his best this early in the season.
But after his success in last year’s race, Van Aert is among the bookies’ favourites to take the win, just behind the outright favourite Mathieu van der Poel.
On choosing to skip the Classics Opening Weekend in Belgium, Van Aert said: “It’s not so much that we are copying last year’s recipe with getting back to racing again after a big break. It’s more that the Opening Weekend is a bit in the way after the cross season.
“I really need those three weeks to prepare for the busy month ahead. I had to make choices.
“It does give me confidence that I am ready for the race.”