The Strade Bianche. Now here’s a race who’s name change I can get behind. Strade Bianche sounds so much cooler than Eroica, no? Mind you I speak no Italian but I know cool sounding words when I hear them. I do own the full Rosetta Stone Italian set, however, and plan to learn one day. The term, I hope as Pedale.Forchetta will attest, means literally ‘the white roads’ which in Siena means loose white gravel.
Far from a classic as the race is only four years old, it does have, in my humble opinion, all the makings of a one-day (read this as 1 day or someday) classic. Potentially cold and wet spring weather, stretches of badass road surface, and some punchy climbs make this a race for the stiff upper lipped. Word has it the Italians conceived this race in the spirit of the spring classics much further north. Now don’t get me wrong here, I’m not saying dirt roads in Siena can hold a candle to the cobbles of Flandria and Northern France, but it’s a damn good idea and worth a try. Based on the start list for this weekend’s edition it’s fair to say the gents in the pro peloton think the same thing.
I also like this race because I can relate to it. Other than boring-ass flat transitional stages in grand tours this race covers terrain very similar to what I ride on a regular basis. Of course we call it gravel in my neck of the woods and the iron ore left over from the mines gives it a reddish tinge but strade is as gravel does. So strade rossa it is for me and I love it. Riding gravel provides that extra dose of burn in the legs and acuity in bicycle handling that I imagine riding the pave does. Again, not necessarily compairing here but I think it’s fair to draw some similarities. Sprinkle in a sheen of mud, loose rear tires on climbs, an off-camber corner or two and you’re in for a ride.
With the hardmen (and maybe even a flahute or two) of spring showing up in central Italy this weekend to mash it out on 70 km of gravel over a 190 km course just days before Adriatico and a couple weeks before the season’s first monument and our first VSP, watch closely. This race is perfectly placed in the spring calendar and is definately drawing more attention and bigger names each year. Cuddles knows his shit on the gravel, Spartacus is on the list, Big George will be there, Pazzato, Ballan, Visconti, and Cunego round out the Italian maybes, not to mention young bucks Peter Sagan and Ryder. And did I mention Spartacus? If I were you, I’d take a good hard look at Peter Sagan. He’s got the legs and the team to take this all the way.