Pro Gravelling- Montepaschi Strade Bianche

I wonder if they like it as much as I do? Yes.

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.

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100 Replies to “Pro Gravelling- Montepaschi Strade Bianche”

  1. Good read Marko! Love the Strade Bianchi and couldn’t agree more that it’s a classic in the making!

    Personally, I think this one’s gonna come down to a battle between the young gun Sagan and Gilbert with Sagan edging it in the end. Speaking of Sagan, there was a pretty good article on velonews last week comparing him to a young Merckx… talk about big shoes!

    Good Cadel

  2. Just perfect Marko!


    Ah! And I’ve a great news! Next MSR
    I’ll spend all the day with an Italian team as photog!

  3. On our way to bed last night after stories, my daughter informed me that her stuffed crocodile””a staple in bed and around the house””was now called Gilbert. Should have put some money down. Regardless: I’m pretty proud of my Velomitoddler.

  4. @Souleur
    espressos all around. And a double hot chocolate for SP’s Velomitoddler sophistiquée.
    Mine spread half a jar of Vick’s vaporub on her nameless alligator yesterday. Embrocation starts early.

  5. Gilbert will take a classic this year, question is, which one? I’m gonna say MSR or LBL.

  6. @frank
    I spotted y’all the Spring Classics last year, too. Don’t forget that. And this year’s training has been superior””what with prognosticating Doom on Haleakala within a minute and all. Be afraid, y’all, be very afraid. Now I also have Gilbert the Crocodile at my house. All I need now is a LS V-jersey before the weather gets too warm…

    Why not both? I have an inkling of an idea that Spartacus might have his eye on one or both of these this year. That should be fun””a real man vs. machine kind of duel if it comes down to the two of them. Spartacus’s brute force against Gilbert’s will and panache.

    How’s this: MSR: Gilbert. LBL: Cancellara RVV: Boonen P-R: Thor. That would make a good spring.

  7. @Steampunk, @Marko
    It will be really interesting to see where everything goes. Has Faboo declared his objectives yet? I’m guessing GIlbert may finally pull off MSR, with Faboo putting 100% into the Luik Bastenaken Luik (the Flemish and more awesome name for LBL). It’s tough to spread your peak even over a week, let alone a full Spring campaign.

  8. @Steampunk
    I like that fantasty (and really hesitate to question the logic of the master) but based on Leopard Trek’s Skyesque start to the season I wonder if Faboo isn’t going to just have to go it alone again. That said, wouldn’t the Ronde or Hell be better suited for that? Thor at P-R would be enough to make my spring though.

  9. frank:
    Has Faboo declared his objectives yet?

    I remember seeing something at the end of the last season. It involved Spring Classics, but not the Ronde or Hell. I’ll have to see if I can dig up that link. I was storing it for the VSP, but now I’ve forgotten what he was targeting.

    Thor at P-R would be enough to make my spring though.

    Yep: I’d settle for that. But I’m greedy. It makes me a better rider. Never settle. Rule #5 and push on!

  10. @Marko & all
    Of course, if you like, I’ll send to you some photos!
    I’ll spend that day with the team Androni Giocattoli, on board of the ‘ammiraglia’.
    Well how do you say in English the car with the Directeur and the mechanic
    inside an the bikes on the roof? In Italian we say the ammiraglia!

  11. Big george was in the front group and managed 15th. Not bad for an old man!

  12. Does cyclingnews ever get anything right? In addition to not yet finding a single article on that site that is free of typo or grammatical mistake, they’re now in the prediction game. I fancy our chances at picking the winner of Paris-Nice. Their pick is in the yellow jersey for this year, according to the caption.

  13. has the last hr of the strada up
    i love these sort of races, sooo much character.

    and btw
    Gilbert is A STUD! the last km is absolutely straight up and he kills it!!

  14. what about the race to the sun?
    here are mine, just because i will be out til monday
    1. sylvain chavanel
    2. sagans younger
    3. tony’s gonnab smartin
    4. wigglie
    5. van den Broeck

    frank, just post these wherever whenever

  15. @all
    I’m delighted to report that our own @Pedale.Forchetta will be providing live updates from the Androni Giocattoli team car during Milan San Remo, as well as a full report and photos after the race.

    This will be quite a way to kick off the 2011 Velominati Super-Prestige!

  16. @Pedale.Forchetta – Bacciamo la mano (excuse my spelling)…. Chapeau

  17. I rode sector 4 in the reverse direction to Ascanio in 1999. I did not anticipate that a legend would develop around these roads. Like Marko said, it is just cool to ride on gravel. The Tuscan gravel is fine and well-packed. You can ride easily in the tire-tracks. There are a few places on the side where the gravel drifts into a slight depth that makes handling a challenge. The steeps are killer though!

  18. @frank

    That’s awesome to hear!

    I was flipping through the TV yesterday morning, when I came across a fuckin’ gymnastic competition. I then proceeded to become upset/sad that cycling (and soccer too unless you buy expensive cable) don’t get shown on TV here… it is truly annoying.

  19. Peripheral but cool quote from Thomas de Gendt, after winning stage 1 of PN:
    “Of course it was great to be with Jens Voigt. He was riding very hard and I knew that with him in the break, we had a chance. It was only a little chance but we took it.”

  20. this has to be my second favourite race of the year (after flanders)

    Looking forward to defending my jersey this year, is Milan-sanremo the first VSP event?

  21. Ah! Missed this race since I was traveling. Skipping this discussion until I watch at least the last 10 km. I do know who won, which kind of ruins the fun, but also makes me happy, since I love the Gil-BEAR.

  22. Just had a chance to watch the end of the race. Wow, very steep there inside the last km. Ballan seems to just have taken that last corner a bit too wide and he was done. Crazy how much little things matter after nearly 5 hours in the saddle.

    Ah, Gilbert! Love watching him take on those final hills.

    @ mcsqueak – I know, I know. The lack of coverage of some sports in the U.S. is damn annoying. You can watch every single football, basketball, and baseball game, but so little beyond this. A little while back I was living with my olds and they had fox soccer channel. It was dangerous. I could watch a few matches a day if I wasn’t careful. Nearly forgot about my bicycles! My favorite was to watch the Sunday morning 11:00 broadcast of an EPL match. I’d ride either before or after, watch two hours of great sporting, then be done with it. I totally wrote off the NFL nonsense. 3+ hours of commercial-laden, overanalyzed garbage. Soccer, beyond cycling, is the best thing to watch when riding indoors during the winter. 45 min of action, a short break, 45 min of action, no damn commercials for crappy “beer”.

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