It turns out that the race I’m going to see this weekend (and the gran fondo I’ll be riding) has been on my radar for some time. I wrote about it 5 years ago, when Strade Bianche was a relatively unknown UCI 1.1 race. It has received a couple of upgrades since 2012 (the year Cancellara won his 2nd of 3 races) and is now a World Tour event, sitting squarely in the zone of Classic-with-a-capital-C, alongside the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, and other big boys further north.
The race is fashioned on those Northern Classics, and incorporates both steep hills (like, well, anything in Belgium) and sections of ‘unfinished road’ (e.g. Paris-Roubaix); in this case the white, gravel roads of the Province of Siena.
Since 2015 a women’s race has been added to the calendar, which takes place on the same day (earlier start – shorter course). We’re looking forward to watching both sexes pound up that last hellish climb into Siena.
Strade Bianche is also probably the only pro race that sprouted from of a gran fondo, and not the other way around. This race began life as L’Eroica, an open amateur event ridden on vintage bikes. I believe long-time reader Chikashi has done this one a few times if you’d like to peruse his blog. For me, my bikes aren’t old enough and I don’t own much wool, so sticking to the modern version for now.
The men’s course is 175 km long and ‘hilly’. The women’s is 127 km and apparently the same one we’ll be doing in the gran fondo on Sunday. Both races finish in the stunning Piazza del Campo in Siena.
Now that the Cancellara era is over (although he’ll actually be there, riding the gran fondo with us), it’s hard to pick a favorite for this year’s race. I always like to choose Peter Sagan these days, but I’m not sure he can carry those tree trunks up that last stretch of cobbled climb and beat someone lighter and on form. Van Avermaet seems like a likely contender, but I just realized that I’ve chosen the winners of of the first two Belgian classics of 2017, so I doubt I’m being very inventive. In the end I don’t care. The important thing is that I’ll be there to watch it!