STRADE BIANCHE BOUND
The Classics are underway and we’re back to one day racing at its greatest. Following a flying start on the Flemish cobbles last weekend, the professional peloton are now in Italy raring to take on the infamous white gravel roads of Strade Bianche.
The Italian Classic established in 2007 is still fairly young, especially when compared to other Classics that have been part of the sport’s history for over a century. Young, however far from lacking in prestige – since its initiation, the race has developed into something special. An icon even that is now ambitiously sought out by the world’s best riders and is a target World Tour event for many teams since elevating to UCI World Tour status in 2017. It stands out mostly for its unique terrain with a huge quantity of the race route travelling over the demanding white gravel sectors of the Chianti region in Tuscany, offering something completely different to the sport; dramatically contrasting to the Flemish and Paris-Roubaix cobbles, yet still undeniably technical.
Not only unique, Strade Bianche which means ‘white roads’ is well known for its exquisite landscape. It’s a sight for sore eyes as the colourful peloton snakes its way over rolling Tuscan country lanes that separate the various sectors – all surrounded by the Chianti vineyards that dominate the countryside, leaving viewers of the race completely entranced from start to finish. Pair that with a day of highly entertaining bike riding and it’s no wonder why the race has promptly jumped up the ranks in stature since its beginnings.
We are proud to have two teams competing this weekend: Israel – Premier Tech and Parkhotel Valkenburg.
israel – premier tech
Israel – Premier Tech will be heading into the race highly motivated following the team’s first victory by Mike Woods at the Gran Camino stage race last week. They will be lining up with a stellar, well-rounded team of riders with Jakob Fugslang spearheading the team, closely backed by an on-form Simon Clarke, who has already taken to the podium numerous times early season and has been a top ten performer in several past Strade Bianche editions.
“This is such a cool race”, Clarke said following the team’s recon ride on Thursday. “Personally, I feel good. However, you need to approach a race like this with an open mindset. Similar to Paris-Roubaix, you can be unfortunate to suffer a puncture at a bad time and then it’s over.
“You can have all the condition in the world but that’s not the only factor in a race like Strade Bianche. Still, without good condition, you’re not going anywhere either. Luckily, we’ve got some really good material here and I believe we will have a good race on Saturday.”
Fugslang has been a key contender at the race in recent years, claiming a close 2nd in 2019, 5th in 2020 and was 9th in last year’s race. When we spoke to him at the team pre-season training camp, he confirmed that Strade Bianche was one of his target races and a big goal would be to take that much desired top step. With a strong team around him – we’re backing his chances!
“For me, Strade Bianche is special. It’s such a beautiful race and it’s one that I would love to win. I came close in 2019, and in 2020 I was also up there but blew my matches a tad too early, so I want to have a good go at it this year.”
TEAM parkhotel valkenburg
Parkhotel Valkenburg will be racing the women’s event with a promising team of contenders. The development team started their season last weekend in Belgium and will be looking to build on some solid performances in Italy. The young squad will be competing on the O2 VAM.
Strong climbing force, Femke Gerritse, shares, “Strade Bianchi is a really special and iconic race because of the scenery and the gravel. It’s a very different kind of race than others. The steep climbs and the race within the race to the gravel sections makes it a very hard one. Last year I also rode this race and although I didn’t achieve a good result, I fell in love with it. This year, my goal is first to finish it and if I am in a good position in the end, I hope to finish in the top 40. “In my opinion, the Factor O2 VAM is the ideal bike for Strade Bianchi because it is very stiff and light. That is the best combination you can get for a race bike and especially in the Tuscan hills.”
The race starts at Siena’s Fortezza Medicea – a fort that was built in the city during the sixteenth century. From there, the 184km route travels over 63km of white gravel roads, spaced out over 11 sectors. The women face a similar 136km route that includes 31.6km of gravel roads across 8 sectors.
The first sector comes as early as 11km into the race and from there, it’s all on. A prime opportunity for the breakaway to make their move and set the scene for the day. If history repeats itself, the ‘real racing’ will kick in at around the halfway mark as the peloton zip through the stunning Crete Senesi hills where the 11.9km Lucignano d’Asso sector is closely countered by the 8km Pieve a Salti.
After another testing 9.6km sector 7, the beautifully brutal 11.5km Monte Sante Marie is faced with just 50km remaining, featuring a combination of testing rolling hills, with a number of technical sections in the mix. By now, the race will be well and truly exploding with only the best left to battle it out over the remaining hurdles.
A long section of welcomed smooth tarmac follows before sector’s 9 and 10 land within quick succession, with the latter – Colle Pinzuto really spicing things up dropping a leg-zapping 15% climb.
The final sector at Le Tolfe includes another arduous test with a climb that peaks out at 18% and surmounts with just 12km of road left to the finish.
The gravel may be over, however it’s far from a straightforward dash to the line with a steep uphill run to the spectacular Piazza del Campo, ensuring the ultimate battle for honours if the race comes down to the wire.
We wish both teams all the strength, determination and luck they will need to take on the glorious white roads of Strade Bianche tomorrow. Andiamo!
Follow each squad to see how they get on:
ISRAEL – PREMIER TECH
TEAM PARK HOTEL VALKENBURG