February 22, 2021
Strade Bianche is quickly becoming a fan favorite, owing largely to increased interest in gravel cycling. Although it's technically a road race, Strade Bianche features a whopping 63km of dirt roads over the entire 184km route - and most of the dirt is crammed into the last half of the event.
Riders must navigate loose, bumpy terrain; sometimes on steep uphill and downhill sections that challenge both fitness and bike handling skills. Like Paris-Roubaix, the un-paved sections are labeled in "sectors" and play a critical role in the outcome.
Strade Bianche starts and finishes in the hill town of Siena, Italy. In English, Strade Bianche means "white roads" - named for the dirt and gravel course.
Although this race is only a little more than a decade old, it has already created some memorable moments.
In the 2019 edition, Wout Van Aert crumbled on the last climb, cramping badly and pushing himself to the limit, until he simply fell over, unable to ride any further. He finished 3rd, for the 2nd year in a row, while Julian Alaphilippe won:
He was redeemed in 2020 though, winning Strade Bianche for the first time in his career in an emotional finish.
Following the shuffling of the 2020 calendar due to COVID-19, Strade Bianche is back in its traditional Spring spot and will be held Saturday, March 6, 2021.
This race is worth watching on its own merits, but let's be clear - since we are cyclocross fans, we want to see our favorite 'crossers in action and doing well.
One notable rider missing the 2021 edition is fan favorite Peter Sagan. After contracting COVID-19 earlier this year, his program has been delayed. He is expected to make a full recovery, but has modified his schedule as he attempts to catch up on training prior to the cobbled classics in April.
A few of the riders we'll be watching:
The unpredictability is part of the fun. The course has dirt roads, and also punchy climbs, so a variety of riders can succeed.
Classics specialist Fabian Cancellara won 3 times, other prior winners include Philippe Gilbert and Michał Kwiatkowski. Peter Sagan has finished twice, but never at the top of the podium.
What do these riders have in common? Big power output, ability to punch on short, steep climbs, and a "hard-man" classics mentality suited to the demands of one-day races.
For readers in the USA, the 2021 Strade Bianche is carried on the GCN+ subscription streaming package.
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