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. 4 years or 40 years or 400 years old, this race is an absolute FUCKING CLASSIC!!! Especially if it rains! Brilliant race and just awesome! Cannot wait for Saturday!!!

    My picks:

    1. Cancellara
    2. Gilbert
    3. Flecha
    4. Boom
    5. Ballan

    Bring on the rain or the dust, eiter way, it will be CLASSIC!

  2. I actually had the pleasure of riding a couple sections of strade bianche in 2008. The white roads are remarkably consistent for what they are… nonetheless, good bike handling and a Magnificent Stroke will definitely be required to win. And an eye for when to attack, as some of the final sections of chalk have short steeps of up to 18%! This is going to be a heck of a race, and the start list makes me even more excited for Sat.

    1. Red Ryder
    2. Cancellara
    3. Cav
    4. Gilbert
    5. Cunego

  3. 1. O Hesjedal
    2. Carl Sagan’s son
    3. Pip Guilburt
    4. Cantchapartacus
    5. Visconti

    It’s good to have some pro riding back on the scene…

  4. Nice video Marko. Looking for on-line coverage of Strade Bianche over at Steephill and saw this.
    Not road cycling, I know, but thought it worth a share.

  5. I love this race. I mean, look at that image; mud and guts and armwarmers and caps, fuckyeah.

    1. Hincapie

    2. Ballan

    3. Cadel

    Yep, a BMC 123 Gewiss styles.

    I’ve been drinking.

  6. Don’t think Cuddles is racing, is he? (I thought I saw he was going to open with T-A.) On that basis …

    1. Visconti.

    2. JENS!

    3. Shoe-Covers.

    4. Gilabert.

    5. BoomBoom.

  7. Good coverage from the helicopter towards the end. Looks like a tough ride in the dry there. Rule #9 if the rain comes out to play.

  8. well neither sky, astana or katusha have been invited so i think that pics are going to have to be


  9. @Martin
    Well looky there, they swapped out the Sagan bros. There are billions and billions of them to go around. Too bad because Peter is someone to watch. THanks for pointing it out.

    SO, anyone who has a Sagan anywhere on their list, whether it be Carl’s grandkid or whomever, no need to clarify. This wasnt’ even an unofficial VSP and you went for it. Nice work everyone.

  10. No problem, Marko :-)
    Peter Sagan calendar:

    Paris – Nice
    Milano – Sanremo
    KBC Driedaagse van De Panne – Koksijde
    Tour des Flandres…etc.

  11. @Brett
    Who’s the grandpa from Astana?

    By the way, if I have a tailwind, as we say in Dutch, I could have the beta VSP tool ready to go for some unofficial testing for a stage or two of Paris-Nice next weekend. Stay tuned.

  12. Anyone locate a roster? I’m voting blind here, but Givesithell is due for a nice win; he showed on the stones at the Tour, and set the record up Haleakala. I’m all about that dude now. By the way, all the way up that monster, I kept thinking, “Ryder would be going twice as fast as me.”

    Faboo et al are not going to target this just yet; they may accidentally wind up in the winning move, but this is training for the Big Week. let the smaller fish fight this one out:

    1) Givesithell
    2) Ballan – ugliest man alive, after gramps in the pic Brett posted – eager to pull out a result after Vlaanderen a few years back
    3) Coolio DiDoosha – Thanks Marko. Doper or no, the dude is grinta a looks cool.
    4) Boom
    5) Cuddles – ends up in the break but gets dropped when the going gets tough due to lack of sharpness

    Awesome post Marko!

  13. It’s all about Ryder this year. We’ve got plenty of gravel trail around here (Vancouver Island). Besides, he used to have a mullet. Simple as that.

  14. @Starfanglednut
    You know, sometimes I worry that Ryder may end up another Jolly Naughty Wiggins. But them I remember he’s not a wanker. Go Ryder Go!

    I see where you’re going with Givesithell and like it but am not quite sure it works.

  15. frank:
    Who’s the grandpa from Astana?

    That kit is probably the ugliest out there currently, especially when they have the long pants on.

  16. i’m with you guys, i love this race, cannot wait to hijack it for free tomorrow

    1. Juan da mon Flecha
    2. Ballan
    3. Farrar-i
    4. Pinotti
    5. cuddles

  17. Completely unrelated, but I had a dream last night that me and a Cat 3 I ride with a lot and Dave Zabriske were in college dorm surrounded by a bunch of college girls and we’re watching track racing on the TV and the Cat 3 and DZ were going on about how some East Coast guy has a velodrome at his disposal all winter and that is why he kicks their asses and the girls are rolling their eyes and I say you have absolutely no idea what they’re talking about do you? Then on the TV you see this guy on the track blow by everybody else and his bike is really big and his wheels look like they are like 7′ tall but then the dream morphed into being in the back seat of a Cooper Mini with some old lady driving it down a hotel’s stairwell…

  18. @Nate
    Fuck! That’s probably correct too. I don’t know if it’s growing pangs for this race, shotty reporting on behalf of the cycling media, or my exhaustive research but it seems like start lists (and lack thereof) are all over the place and super inconsistent for this one. I don’t know about you all but it’s been sort of hard for me to pin down. At least Garmin-Cervelo puts their lists up on facebook.

  19. I’m tying to figure out how I can watch this bad boy tomorrow in the US… any ideas?

  20. @sgt

    Nothing there yet to indicate it’ll be available, but give a try.

  21. Ok, minor adjustments in light of updated participation information:
    1. Visconti.
    2. JENS!
    3. Givesithell
    4. Cuddles
    5. BoomBoom.

  22. Tomorrow night will be one of the very few times I look forward going to my inlaws…
    I’ll be watching the race on their cheap ass PC which apparently is capable of running Silverlight which you need to follow broadcasts by RAI Sport 2. Unfortunately my trusty Mac is not up to this…

    By the way, you guys might be able to watch it this way elsewhere too!

  23. @G’phant
    Jens isn’t riding, but that shouldn’t preclude him from finishing second. That’s a bit of Jensism right there: “Jens attacked and dropped the entire pack. It was only at the finish line that they discovered he was tapering after climbing the Himalayas and just happened to be on the same roads.”

    Givesithell is not riding at the kiddy table. Give the man some props.

    @all: I’m still aching to see the complete Garmin-Cervelo classics line-up. The one with O Hesjedal, Thor, HH, et al. all riding together. Scary shit will go down.

  24. @Marko
    Cycling Fever, which I usually find better than most, has only 13 teams lining up, which can’t be right. Nonetheless, I’ll venture the following:


  25. @Steampunk
    “Jens isn’t riding, but that shouldn’t preclude him from finishing second. That’s a bit of Jensism right there: “Jens attacked and dropped the entire pack. It was only at the finish line that they discovered he was Tapering after climbing the Himalayas and just happened to be on the same roads.”

    That’s pure brilliance right there!

  26. frank :
    @Brett Who’s the grandpa from Astana?

    Gorad Stangelj I think, he’s been around a while. Remember seeing him race in the Bank Race in Aus in the early 90’s.

  27. @Steampunk
    Exactly right. The only reason I have JENS! In second place is because he is not actually entered so will not want to embarrass the organizers by actually winning.

  28. @G’phant
    Actually, it’s the other way around. If he was actually racing, he would give it his all for his teammates and therefore not win. This way, he has no team responsibilities.

  29. I’m sure many of you have seen this, but I thought it warranted sharing. It seems it shares some of the primary values that many of us seem to hold dearly. At this point in the year””as many of us (in the northern hemisphere) are starting to return to the roads ourselves””it’s just as poignant a reminder about what makes cycling great.

  30. Kids in bed, dishes done: I finally got to sit down and watch the video above. Couldn’t help thinking to myself: “Does Spartacus even understand the concept of drafting?” The man’s always got his face in the wind.

  31. According to a tweet linked to on cyclocosmblr (by Cyclocosm), no streaming.

    Cancellara (pressure on LEE-o-pard for a win)
    Ryder (I’ve seen two videos of men climbing Haleakala, only one was faster than Frank)
    Gilbert Grape
    Good-ish Cadel
    Cyclops, whose dreams indicate he is still above his lactate threshold.

  32. No mention of this on cyclingfans. Any idea where to find this online tomorrow morning?

  33. @Steampunk says RAI will have online coverage after the race is over — looks like after-the-fact video only.

  34. scratch Gilbert for Richie Porrrrrrte. Don’t even know if he’s riding, but love his work!

    This is one of the great day races I reckon. True gold. And the Giro stage over these roads last year was truly one for the ages.

    Love how the season builds like this!

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