The Strade Bianche: a modern Classic

Lee Rodgers Columnist

By Lee Rodgers, Lee Rodgers is a Roar Expert

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    It’s not easy for a modern race to muscle its way in to the grizzled hearts and grease-stained affections of the hardcore cycling fan but Italy’s Strade Bianche seems to have bucked that trend, establishing itself in just seven short years as a modern classic.

    This race has it all: beautiful scenery, rolling hills, a good distance and some very challenging loose gravel roads that, if wet, turn into brutal, slimy, drive chain-clogging lanes that suit the true hard men of the peloton.

    This is how this race very quickly became a fan’s favourite, because like the true Classics, such as Paris-Roubaix or the Tour of Flanders, the Strade Bianche offers no hiding places.

    Bravery and courage are rewarded, if not by victory then with a nod of respect from the tifosi.

    The race starts in the Chianti region, in Gaiole, and reaches its conclusion 188km away in Siena. On the way the riders face some 70km of gravel.

    So who’s in with a shout?

    Well, Radioshack Leopard’s Fabian Cancellara is on for a hat-trick of wins here (he won in 2008 and 2012) and you’d be hard pushed to bet against him. He’s not been on the kind of top-end form he had this time last season but there’s no doubt this is just the kind of route that suits the big Swiss.

    Also up for grabs is having three sections of the gravel named in honour of the first man to claim a hat-trick, announced recently by the organisers.

    Still though, this Radioshack team have had their fair share of knocks recently – what with Frank Schleck being banned for a doping positive, Johan Bruyneel losing his job and Andy Schleck losing the plot – so perhaps Spartacus’s confidence is wobbling.

    We shall see. I doubt it. Granite doesn’t usually wobble.

    Another rider looking very good at the moment is Cadel Evans of BMC Racing. Former world champ Cadel hasn’t won this race but he did win a stage in the Giro d’Italia that ran over these very roads in 2010, giving Alexandre ‘Dope? Who? Me?’ Vinokourov a proper spanking along the way.

    Anyone who saw that moment when El Vino was hanging on to Evans’ mud-flinging wheel and seemed to be crying in pain will know that Evans is in with a chance here.

    Evans will be without Alessandro Ballan, who is injured, but he will have excellent support in Taylor Phinney and Greg van Avermaet, both potential winners in their own right.

    To be fair though Evans does look sharp at the moment and if he gets rain, it could be his day.

    Others to keep an eye on include Lars Boom of Blanco, who looks in good shape, Nick Nuyens of Garmin Sharp, who could be dangerous if he gets off the front in a group, and of course Luca Paolini, the gate-crasher of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad last week, from those backdoor boys Katusha.

    However the other big threat is that young demon of a rider and thorough dis-respecter of reputations, Peter Sagan of Liquigas-Cannondale. He has stated that he has the Monuments in his crosshairs and he’s always trigger happy, so he might be looking to test his aim here.

    As ever, should be fascinating.

    Prediction? Evans. Probably the Kiss of Death, that…

    Lee Rodgers
    Lee Rodgers

    Lee Rodgers is a former professional rider on the UCI Asia circuit. He is now a freelance journalist, cycling coach and runs the website

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    The Crowd Says (5)

    • Columnist

      March 2nd 2013 @ 1:59pm
      Adam Semple said | March 2nd 2013 @ 1:59pm | ! Report

      This race is amazing. I love the steepness did the hills and the brownness of the ‘bianche’ when rain hits. So many crafty Italian riders in with a chance as well, especially given the giro is looming. Pippo Pozzato a potential ring in?

    • Columnist

      March 3rd 2013 @ 9:01am
      Sean Lee said | March 3rd 2013 @ 9:01am | ! Report

      That Giro stage that turned all the riders into mud monsters was a real throwback to the old, old days. All that was missing was riders with their spare tyres slung across their shoulders. That Evans won made it all the more special. Bring on the bianche. Sagan for me.

    • Columnist

      March 3rd 2013 @ 9:01pm
      Lee Rodgers said | March 3rd 2013 @ 9:01pm | ! Report

      Sean called it!

    • Columnist

      March 4th 2013 @ 1:48pm
      Tim Renowden said | March 4th 2013 @ 1:48pm | ! Report

      Strade Bianche was my race of the year so far… great aggressive move from Moreno Moser, living up to the family name.

      Poor Cancellara being shadowed by Sagan all afternoon… is he ever going to be allowed to win a road race again?

    • Columnist

      March 4th 2013 @ 3:03pm
      Lee Rodgers said | March 4th 2013 @ 3:03pm | ! Report

      There’s definitely a new kind on the block. As Cancellara himself said, jis legs were ‘very good’ but Sagan’s were better! Moser won well but he wouldn’t have done that without Sagan, who, just to let everyone know who the real boss was, then comes in 2nd!


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