That year, the Dutchman forced gaps on the race’s gravel sectors, before launching an explosive move on the final climb, reaching a max power of almost 1,400 watts.
Speaking ahead of this year's edition, the 28-year-old said that Strade Bianche remains a “special race” to him.
“It’s something we don’t often do during the season. It’s a really tough one as well. People only think about the gravel, but it’s also just a really hard race. I think you need the legs in the first place to compete for the win.”
Reflecting on his triumph two years ago, Van der Poel said: “The way it went was quite special. It’s one of the victories that I will remember for quite a bit, and I hope that I’ll have the legs to race as aggressively as that on Saturday.”
This weekend's Strade Bianche will mark the Alpecin-Deceuninck rider’s first road race of 2023, and his first event since winning the Cyclo-cross World Championships for the fifth time last month.
Asked about his preparation for the road season, Van der Poel said he had had “the perfect build-up.”
“I’ve done everything that I wanted to do,” he continued. “Of course, I would love to have it a bit longer, but the way I divide my season [between road and cyclo-cross] makes it a bit difficult to have a really long preparation.
“I feel ready for what’s coming, but I think I will need some racing to really be at my top level.”
The Dutchman will go into Saturday’s event as one of the big favourites, particularly in the absence of reigning champion Tadej Pogačar and 2020 race winner Wout van Aert, who chose to postpone his season debut due to illness.
Speaking about the duo’s absence, Van der Poel said: “It changes [the race] a bit. They’re two of the best riders we have and they also have quite an aggressive racing style, so if you have good legs and you can follow them, it makes the racing a bit easier.
“For sure, the race is hard enough. There are a lot of other really good riders as well, so it’s going to be a tough one. I’m looking forward to it.”
Thank you for reading 20 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription
Join now for unlimited access
Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1