IMAGES BY @BRAZODEHIERRO AND DAIN ZAFFKE
There’s no shortage of exciting races on the calendar – and maybe we’re partial to Strade Bianche because the event just concluded – but here are the reasons why cycling’s “sixth monument” is number one in our book.
TIMING IS EVERYTHING
Sure, there are technically earlier races on the calendar (Tour Down Under and Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, for example), but Strade Bianche is a proper season kick off. It’s the first week of March, the sun’s shining, the days are getting longer and it feels like winter is finally over.
If Paris Roubaix is known as “the Hell of the North,” Strade Bianche should be nicknamed “the Heaven of the South.” The green, rolling hills dotted with wildflowers, the gorgeous white gravel roads, the ancient stone villas and medieval towns… Is there a more appealing destination for road cycling?
One third of the course rolls across dirt roads. This makes for exciting racing, sure, but it also represents how so many of us ride these days. Why ride the busy thoroughfare when there’s an empty dirt road alternative?
After raging across the Tuscan countryside, the race finishes in the medieval city of Siena. The final climb, up the ancient and narrow Via Santa Caterina, boasts gradients of nearly 13-percent. The finish line sits on the Piazza del Campo, which is widely regarded as one of Europe’s greatest medieval squares. With tens of thousands of fans packed into the finishing square, the energy is electric.
Amateur riders can choose between two routes on the Strade Bianche Gran Fondo, with the longer version following the exact course as the women’s elite race the next day. This popular event regularly sells out at 6,500 riders.
MEN AND WOMEN RACE THE SAME DAY
Race fans can see all the action of the world’s top male and female cyclists racing on the same day. With the start and finish in the city of Siena, and staggered starts, spectators are rewarded with an action-packed day from early morning into the late afternoon.
HISTORY AND CULTURE
The region’s rich history is visible at every turn, including Etruscan necropolis that date back to 900 BC. Regardless of your appetite for history lessons, you can’t deny that you’re never far from an incredible culinary experience in Tuscany.