All set for the “white roads” at Strade Bianche

The first Italian WorldTour race on the calendar, to truly open the 2019 campaign, Tuscany’s ‘emerging classic’, Strade Bianche has quickly become a fixture on the early season calendar that riders target and fans eagerly anticipate. This year’s edition is on Saturday 9 March.

Amongst the Spring Classics that test riders and machines with their cobbles, Strade Bianche throws the curveball challenge of multiple gravel and sand sectors, along with climbs. These non-asphalt sectors are the “white roads” that give the race its name – and unmistakable appearance, as the harshness of the race is juxtaposed with the beauty of the Tuscan landscape.

Along with the gravel, grit and sand under the riders’ tires the early March weather often plays a part in the story. Wind, rain, hail and even snow has helped Strade Bianche create not just a tough race, but the opportunity for images that last long on the retina and the camera lens… there’s simply nothing quite like it.

Another image that the racers and fans alike all value is in the race’s host city, the unique charm of Siena. It’s not just the dusty, roads that make Strade Bianche iconic – it’s the close association with this very special start and finish location. After the riders climb the Via Santa Caterina, the finish at the world famous mediaeval square – the Piazza del Campo – is a selfie waiting to happen.

First staged in 2007, Strade Bianche achieved UCI WorldTour status in 2017. The 2019 men’s route is 184km long with 11 gravel sectors, totalling around 63km. It’s hard race, so the teams pack talent into their squads:

Who to watch

Movistar Team blend experience with pace and power in their seven-rider men’s line-up, with explosive Ecuadorian Richard Carapaz and Colombian Classics danger-man Carlos Betancur flanked by Portuguese Nelson Oliviera and Spaniards José Rojas and Eduard Prades. In the 136km Women’s WorldTour race, featuring 31.4km of gravel, Movistar Women Team’s six riders are led by the experienced French road champion Aude Biannic and Spanish former cyclocross champ Alicia Gonzalez.

Although Michal Kwiatkowski isn’t going for a record-equalling third Strade Bianche win this year, the Team Sky pack is filled with aces, with 2018 Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas looking to embellish his strong Classics record in his Strade Bianche debut, and in-form Gianni Moscon ready to impress on home soil.

Team Jumbo-Visma have sent their new Belgian cyclocross ace Wout van Aert to Tuscany, where he was part of the exciting 2018 podium breakaway. The former CX World Champion feels at home on any surface, and expects robust support from Danny van Poppel amongst others.

While there’s no Bardet this year for AG2R La Mondiale, their lead Frenchman is the hugely talented Tour de France White Jersey Pierre Latour. The squad includes Silvan Dillier – a real Swiss Army knife of a rider – who has what it takes to make an impact on the Classics.