As a cycling tragic, its MMT’s favourite time of year, the brief lull in UCI calendar before all the spring time Monuments and one classics start. MMT figures that these races are most like the sportive and charity rides he does, so there’s a bit to simpatico. Also the riders tend to win these races are of the bigger variety, as opposed to the 50-55Kg jockeys that tend to dominate the mountain and general classifications.MMT is particularly enarmoured with the Strade Bianche due to start on the 3rd March 2018. Unfortunately SBS aren’t covering this modern day gem (…or for that matter the Giro..WTF!!!)
The Eroica Strade Bianche (“Heroic race of the gravel roads”) was created in 1997 as a granfondo, a recreational bike race for vintage bikes only, on the white gravel roads around Siena, an event that is still held annually the day after the professional race. In 2007, a professional race was spun off the event, inaugurally called Monte Paschi Eroica, won by Russian Alexandr Kolobnev. The race was held on 9 October; it started in Gaiole in Chianti and finished in Siena. Organizer RCS asked local cycling icons Fiorenzo Magni and Paolo Bettini to promote the maiden event. Monte dei Paschi, the world’s oldest still-existing bank with its headquarters in Siena, served as the race’s title sponsor for the first four years. In 2008, the race was moved to early March on the calendar, closer to the heart of the spring classics season. At this point, professional cycling teams started competing more seriously.
There are roughly 63km of gravel roads, appearing in 11 sectors (eight of those shared with the Women Elite course). For the men that’s approximately 1/3 of the course.
There are some nasty, nasty hills in this race ranging from 6% to 18%. But what makes it really special is the final 4 kilometres approaching the city centre of Siena.
Here’s a description pilfered from event’s web site.
“The demanding final kilometres, with gradients up to 16%, approach the city of Siena along broad, straight sections of road, connected by sweeping curves, first descending, and then climbing slightly. 2km from the finish line, the route joins Via Esterna di Fontebranda, where the gradient touches 9%. 900m from the finish line, the race route passes beneath Fontebranda Gate where the road surface becomes paving slabs. The gradient exceeds 10% until 500m from the finish line, reaching its highpoint of 16% in Via Santa Caterina. A sharp right hand turn leads to Via delle Terme, and then Via Banchi di Sotto. With 300m to go, the road continues to climb slightly then, 150m from the line, a right turn leads into Via Rinaldini. The route enters the Piazza del Campo just 70m from the finish line. The final 30m descends at a gradient of 7% and the finish line itself is flat.”
So this what the final 4km route through Siena, ending at Piazza del Campo.
Man that’s seriously leg burning and after 180km or so…ouch The other thing about the race, is that professional’s seem to take it very seriously.
- The Palmares of the last ten years include:
- Fabian Cancellara (3 wins),
- Michał Kwiatkowski (2 wins), and
- Philippe Gilbert, Zdeněk Štybar (1 win each)
and then a raft of minor placings to stars of the sport like:
- Peter Sagan,
- Greg Van Avermaet, and
- Alejandro Valverde.
Australia’s own Michael Rogers finished 3rd in 2010 and is to this day the only Australian to make the podium. Luke Durbridge of Orica Greenedge/Scott/Bike Exchange/Mitchelton, finished 6th last year (2017). Cancellara has the most difficult section of strade named after him, following his third win in 2016. The 11.4km, 5 star section is 54km from the finish line and was previously known as ‘Monte Sante Marie Settore’
So speaking of the great man and Siena here’s a few pilfered happy snaps.
OK that’s enough skiving off at work. Hopefully I can shake off this damn throat virus and go for a ride tomorrow morning. The weather outside looks awesome.
Until next time, ride safe.