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The Strade Bianche’s rapid rise to the top of cycling


No similar examples can be found in modern cycling. The Strade Bianche has grown into a legend in just a few years: a race coveted and glorified by the riders and loved by the fans, already part of contemporary cycling history. It is impressive to think that before 2007 there used to be a calendar without the Strade Bianche. The big old school names would certainly have had a lot of fun on these roads.

Indeed, in today’s super-technological and meticulously planned cycling, there is no race that brings back the feats and courage of bygone days, the shoulder-to-shoulder duels, more than the Strade Bianche. One only has to think of the 2018 edition, conditioned by bad weather, with Tiesj Benoot arriving in Siena covered in mud from head to toe and a young Wout Van Aert who, on the wall of Via Santa Caterina, exhausted by the harshness of the race, ended up on the ground and finished the race completely distraught. But one can also think of Fabian Cancellara’s hat-trick, something the Swiss has always been extremely proud of, or of Michal Kwiatkowski’s double, or of Peter Sagan and Greg Van Avermaet’s curse, both of them often coming very close to triumphing without ever succeeding. And again, the epic clash between Mathieu Van der Poel, Wout Van Aert, Julian Alaphilippe, Tadej Pogacar, Egan Bernal and Tom Pidcock, who battled it out between attacks and counterattacks in 2021 in a splendid melting pot of riders with different characteristics. No other race can allow such different riders to compete for victory. And how about Pogacar’s 50 km solo last year? Alaphilippe, Van der Poel, Van Aert and Pogacar: the last four names on the roll of honour perfectly explain the pedigree earned by this race.

Since 2015, the women’s race has also been organised and, driven by the success of the men’s race, it has entered the elite of world cycling straight through the front door. Annemiek van Vleuten, Anna van der Breggen, Elisa Longo Borghini and Lotte Kopecky are among the winners, confirming that, even among girls, the Strade Bianche is a hunting ground for the world’s best.

All these elements enabled the race to quickly climb the hierarchies of world cycling, becoming a cult event for fans coming from halfway around the world to enjoy the event and the beauty of Tuscany. If the athletes have had a hand in the rapid growth of the Strade Bianche, as they certainly have, they have been able to do so thanks to the ideal scenario they have found themselves in. The gravel roads and dusty walls of this well recognisable part of the region have proved their charm from both a technical and scenic point of view, while Siena’s splendid Piazza del Campo has immediately established itself as one of the most beautiful venues in which a cycling race could place its final act.

A year ago, the French newspaper “L’Equipe” surveyed 381 professional riders, including almost all of the world’s best, on their preferences regarding various races on the calendar. When asked which race they thought should be added to the five Cycling Monuments, it was a plebiscite: the Strade Bianche, of course.

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