V Ride of the Year: Strada Bianca

100% V. Photo: Roberto Bettini

We are not hard. We may espouse the values of the mythical hardman, but we are merely pretenders to the throne of the Kings of V. While it is ok to talk about hardness, suffering and toil on the bike, when it really comes down to it we are mere mortals who would rather be under a rug with a warm cuppa than grinding the 53 in a subarctic-driven blizzard. Admit it. Comfort trumps suffering every time. Well, I’m speaking for myself here, and as I’m about to ride on a still, warm and sunny day, I know that it’s way too easy to throw on the minimum of clothing to head out than undergoing a half hour ritual of head-to-toe insulating that most of you have to endure at this time of year.

But watching others suffer, that’s another story. Hoping every Northern Spring that it will bucket down rain, and the mercury plummet to single figures gives us some sort of perverse pleasure, knowing that only the toughest of men will rise to the occasion and forge their names into history, into our consciousness and memory banks as the heroes of the sport. Victory through adversity allows us to live vicariously through their achievments on a stage that we will never grace, yet one we hold dearly to our hearts and minds.

These are the rides that forge legends. And there were plenty in 2010 that we will remember for a long time.

It was probably months ago now when the Keepers named our picks for the V Ride of the Year, and the emails bouncing across the ether threw up a list that was exceptionally hard to whittle down to one rider or one race that truly stood alone as the toughest-fought of them all. There was Motorcus’ incredible double at Flanders and Roubaix, where he made the cream of the Spring crop look second rate. I had a particular soft spot for Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne, when only 26 of the hardest men finished a race in conditions that you would be reluctant to even leave the house to drive a car. The sight of the last survivors, and they did have to draw on survival techniques in that one, straggling across the finish line eerily illuminated by the headlights of the vehicles following in the gloom, the faces blank, eyes hollow, skin shining wet and muscles near hypothermic, made me warm inside. ¬†Because it was them and not me. They were heroes, and heroes only become heroes because they achieve what we can’t, or won’t.

But on consensus, one particular ride always appeared in the lists profered by the Keepers. Maybe it was the stunning images it provided. Possibly the fact that the Rainbow Jersey was prominent in the selection, or that a formerly tarnished combatant was continuing his redemption in our eyes, or that a cyclocrossing climber was relishing both of those elements on what was supposed to be a road race stage. Was it the unselfish ride by the Maglia Rosa, losing time, fighting hard to get his team leader to the finish while sacrificing his own ambitions? All of these things played their part in an epic race in every sense of the word.

I think it was simply the mud. Yep, it was the beautiful white dirt, the Strada Bianca, turned into a nasty grinding paste by torrential rain, that may have washed out of the riders’ kit and off their bikes, but will stay ingrained on our psyches (and no doubt theirs) for years to come.

Congratulations to each and every rider that survived Stage 7 of the 2010 Giro d’Italia. You are all bonafide hardmen, and all thoroughly deserving of a V-Cog Five and Dime award for services to the pantheon of great moments in cycling. We salute you.

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27 Replies to “V Ride of the Year: Strada Bianca”

  1. A-Merckx!

    I had the pleasure to ride a small section of Strada Bianca east of Siena in 2008… no pics, but the weather was fine, and I had none of the shit those boys went through. The Strade Bianche are unbelievably good roads, even unpaved, but on 23’s they’re a challenge even when dry; I can’t imagine navigating them in that weather.

    “…heroes only become heroes because they achieve what we can’t, or won’t.” Money.

    L’Eroica 2013 or bust!

  2. Maybe the cameramen should get V status, too:

    I nominate the amateurs and pros who rode the Warrnambool Classic in October. Over 260 km of wind and hail. Only 93 of 212 riders finished the race. My friend Gus was one of them.

  3. Brett, and all keepers… GREAT call… You’ve nailed it

    I would have humbly thrown in those early stages in TdF with the weather (but then they slowed down) and the cobbles of N France as contenders, but this was the stage… I remember turning on and starting watching… And my wife coming home four hours later, my jaw slack, a large puddle around my feet (I wasn’t going to move, was I?) and a stoopid, idiot grin on my face

  4. And all the falling have been on the asphalt, no one fell on the strada bianca…

  5. While it is ok to talk about hardness, and suffering, and toil on the bike, when it really comes down to it, we are mere mortals who would rather be under a rug with a warm cuppa than grinding the 53 in a sub-arctic driven blizzard. Admit it. Comfort trumps suffering every time.

    Been married to an Irishwoman for nearly 15 years: at times, the arctic-driven blizzard is the more comfortable…

    But yes: no complaints from me re. the V ride of the year. This was one of the most incredible days of riding I have ever seen.

  6. Yes there was no ride more suitable for the V Ride of 2010 than the strada and thanks Brett for the great write up. Sadly, for me, it was a low point in my season of fandom as I was out in the field for the stage and couldn’t watch. I had to catch it on clips and snippets a few days later.

    I think the no crashing part is key here. Yes, the Stockeu and Cobbled stages of the Tour were epic, but they weren’t clean. A neutralized stage and crashes galore does not a great stage make, although they are fun to watch. The tete de la course in stage three was awesome but the strada had it all.

  7. Perfect, Brett. Thank Jensus we have a pro writer amongst us. The photo already says this was a monster day. Like Marko, I missed this stage live, and if ever there was a tour on DVD worth paying for, this must have been it. As always, the Giro is less prescribed than the TDF and the Italians just take many more risks to put together a great tour.
    No crashes, amazing. That’s why they are the professionals. I wonder if they were using different tires? Was it raining at the start? hmmmmmm.

  8. It rained from start to finish, no different tires are needed on the sticky crete of Montalcino…

  9. good one Brett, without a doubt.

    Its images will cause us to recollect that day for years. I was fortunate enough to watch it live on the internet and was glued to it. Shut the door, told the secretary to hold all calls, it was great!

    Images that reminded me of Museeuw and Hincapie on their best days in spring in years past

  10. Watching the Giro earlier this year was one of the highlights of my entire year. It was a wonderful race to watch and I saw most stages live.

    This one was incredible. Nice writing, Brett!

    Hard to believe the year is almost over, the Tour Down Under is just ahead, and the cycling season will start all over again. At this point in my life my passion for cycling is what keeps me in tune with the rhythms of the seasons, the weather, the sun and the moon. Who’d have thought a kids toy could mean so much?

    It is crazy that most of the PROs on this day only made a few minor adjustments to their kit. “Give me a cap, some arm warmers, my bike and I’m ready to ride…” Many didn’t even wear full-finger gloves. Lots of V on display that day for sure.

    I was actually reading the book/manual/pamphlet/bible you get with Assos bibs the other day. First of all, there is a great quotation in there from LeMan on how anything worth acheiving is going to involve suffering. Nice! And secondly, it talks about dressing properly and how the start of most cool weather rides involves The V – you are going to suffer at the start until you warm up, lest you be too hot twenty minutes in. They need a Follower to write their copy.

  11. The finish told the tale in my mind: A slow motion uphill sprint over the cobbles. You could see that each of the top three was trying to turn up the gas but had nothing left but two lungs full of wasps.

  12. Amazing stage! Straight out of the Spring Classics. Between that stage and the tdf stage on the cobbles, what an awesome 3 week stage race year! Does anyone know why WCP has not released the 2010 Giro on DVD yet?

  13. Ahh magnificent. Thoroughly agree with that. Good Cadel had a terrific Giro I thought. Loved his incredible gurning grind in pursuit of Basso up the Zoncolan also. God knows what gear he was in, but it was all wrong.

    …and, of course, walzting his matilda past Bertie Clenbutador on the Mur de Huy.

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