Strade Bianche 2021: What time does it start today, which teams are racing, what TV channel is it on and who are the favourites?
What is this race and why should I care about it?
Strade Bianche is a unique race in the professional calendar that has earned a place in the hearts of cycling fans despite its relatively short existence. While amateurs are often found aping their heroes, the first Italian race of the WorldTour season in fact reverses the paradigm.
Swiss classics specialist Fabian Cancellara won the first of the three Strade Bianche titles he claimed — he remains the most successful rider on the white roads — the following year in 2008. Unsurprisingly, the race has become a particular favourite with the classics riders, particularly since its move to the earlier part of the calendar from its original October slot — other than last year’s event that was switched to August as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Previous winners include Philippe Gilbert, Michal Kwiatkowski, Zdenek Stybar, Julian Alaphilippe and Wout van Aert, while Moreno Moser remains the sole Italian to have won the race.
Strade Bianche earned itself WorldTour status in 2016. The seventh edition of the women’s edition takes place on the same day as the men’s race and in 2021 and acts as the curtain-raiser to the Women’s WorldTour.
When is Strade Bianche?
The men’s race gets under way at 11.45am (10.45am GMT) on Saturday March 6, 2021. The women’s race starts at 9.15am (8.15am GMT).
How long is this year’s race?
Strade Bianche is just 184 kilometres long, the women’s race is 136km.
What routes do the races follow?
Both races set off from Siena and follow a circuitous route, in an anti-clockwise direction, heading south towards Buonconvento at which point the routes diverge. Once the riders reach the most southerly points of the day, they change direction and head back north towards Siena.
While the route for the women’s race looks like this which is, essentially, the same as the men’s but without the loop south of Buonconvento . . .
And what do the profiles look like?
This is the men’s race . . .
. . . and here’s the women’s . . .
How much of each race is on strade bianche?
There are 11 sectors in the men’s race, covering 63km in total — 34.2% of the course — while the women’s features eight (31.4km, 23.1% of course).
How long is each sector and where are they?
After setting out from Siena, the riders will be treated to just under 18km of smooth asphalt before reaching the race’s first sector of gravel . . .
Following a brief return to the asphalt, a slightly tougher stretch awaits:
Two further sections follow at 36.9km and 47.6km respectively.
And then following a 6.4km-long stretch of asphalt, there’s another one:
After almost 20km of respite, it is time for the longest stretch of gravel.
A very short 1km stretch of asphalt punctuates back-to-back sectors.
By this point in the race, it is widely expected that if they have not already done so the main protagonists will start to position themselves in preparation for what follows beyond the feed zone in Ponte d’Arbia at the 102.6km mark having passed through Buonconvento for the second time.
Once sector seven is completed, there’s an asphalt-covered descent towards the most famous and feared section of the race (see below video).
Positioning here may be key, and while amateurs would take advantage of the smooth surface and freewheel for a couple of kilometres, the stronger riders on Saturday afternoon will do nothing of the kind. Similarly to Paris-Roubaix, attacks often follow immediately after gravel sections.
Here’s a closer look at most of that sector, for those that like these things:
The following 20km may all be on asphalt, but the road undulates, just as riders’ ambitions may do as their exertions start to take their toll. There’s a further 300 metres of gravel, though it is not an official ‘sector’.
Final 20km of the men’s race
With just under 24km of the race to go, the selection will either have been made with the main protagonists near the front, or will be in the post.
Four kilometres later and the riders will be onto the final gravel sector.
So, what does the finale of the race look like?
With 12km remaining, those still in with a chance of winning Strade Bianche will have to keep their cool. Numerous short climbs pepper the run-in back towards Siena before they arrive at the old walled city.
Final 3km of the route
On entering the city beneath the Fontebranda Gate, the leading riders will hit the large paving slabs that are seen all across the city of Siena. Now within the city walls, riding along the narrow streets and under a kilometre from the finishing line in the famous old Piazza del Campo — where the medieval Palio di Siena horse race traditionally takes place each July and August — the road rises one last vicious time.
Twisting finale into Piazza del Campo
At around 500 metres from the line the steepest stretch of road along Via Santa Caterina cruelly tops out at 16 per cent — it was here that did for Wout van Aert in 2018 when the young Belgian cramped up (see below) — before the road takes a sharp right. A left-hand turn is followed by another right hander before the riders, finally, arrive in Piazza del Campo.
Providing they have any horse-power left, once they have navigated a short descent the riders can gallop for the line on one of the few pan-flat stretches of the entire course, which clocks in at a measly 30 metres long.
How can I watch this year’s race?
Those lucky enough to have subscriptions to Eurosport or GCN can follow all the action on either television or the app. If you cannot watch the race live then you can follow the second half of both races right here. Bookmark this page and return on the day of race for the latest updates.
What’s in it for the winner?
The winner of the men’s race will trouser a cheque to the value of €16,000 which, by our calculations, is over seven times more than their female counterparts. The men’s runner-up takes home €8,000 and the rider on the third step of the podium €4,000. Here’s the breakdown . . .
With Strade Bianche being a WorldTour race, there will also be points on offer that will go towards a riders’ overall rankings . . .
In addition to the WorldTour squads, Pro-Continental teams Alpecin-Fenix and Arkéa-Samsic also qualified to race courtesy of last year’s rankings, while race organisers RSC handed wildcard spots to Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec, Bardiani-CSF-Faizane, Eolo-Kometa and Vini Zabu.
All nine Women’s WorldTeam’s (Alé BTC Ljubljana, BikeExchange, Canyon-Sram, DSM, FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope, Liv Racing, Movistar, SD Worx and Trek-Segafredo Women) will participate in the earlier race along with the top six Women’s Continental teams, while eight wildcard spots were handed out and so A.R. Monex, Aromitalia-Basso Bikes-Vaiano, Bepink, Born To Win G20 Ambedo, Ceratizit-WNT, Isolmant-Premac-Vittoria, Jumbo-Visma, Lotto-Soudal, Massi-Tactic, Parkhotel Valkenburg, Servetto-Makhymo-Beltrami TSA, Tibco-SVB, Top Girls Fassa Bortolo, Valcar-Travel & Service will all be in action.
What does the men’s startlist look like?
Race organsiers RCS released the provisional seven-man teams on Thursday. Telegraph Sport will update any further changes as and when they happen before the confirmed startlist is published.
Ag2r-Citroën (Fra): Lilian Calmejane (Fra), Nans Peters (Fra), Michael Schär (Swi), Greg Van Avermaet (Bel), Gijs Van Hoecke (Bel), Andrea Vendrame (Ita), Clément Venturini (Fra).
Astana-Premier Tech (Kaz): Alex Aranburu (Spa), Manuele Boaro (Ita), Fabio Felline (Ita), Jakob Fuglsang (Den), Jonas Gregaard (Den), Hugo Houle (Can), Gorka Izagirre (Spa).
Bahrain Victorious (Brn): Pello Bilbao (Spa), Eros Capecchi (Ita), Matej Mohoric (Slo), Domen Novak (Slo), Mark Padun (Ukr), Hermann Pernsteiner (Aut), Jan Tratnik (Slo).
BikeExchange (Aus): Jack Bauer (NZ), Brent Bookwalter (US), Christopher Juul-Jensen (Den), Barnabas Peak (Hun, neo-pro), Nick Schultz (Aus), Robert Stannard (Aus), Simon Yates (GB).
Bora-Hansgrohe (Ger): Giovanni Aleotti (Ita, neo-pro), Emanuel Buchmann (Ger), Marcus Burghardt (Ger), Patrick Gamper (Aut, neo-pro), Patrick Konrad (Aut), Daniel Oss (Ita), Ben Zwiehoff (Ger).
Vini Zabu (Ita): Mattia Bevilacqua (Ita), Simone Bevilacqua (Ita), Andrea Di Renzo (Ita), Kamil Gradek (Pol), Alessandro Iacchi (Ita), Davide Orrico (Ita), Jan Petelin (Lux).
Eolo-Kometa (Ita): Davide Bais (Ita), Erik Fetter (Hun), Sergio García (Spa), Arturo Grávalos (Spa), Samuele Rivi (Ita), Diego Pablo Sevilla (Spa), Daniel Viegas (Por).
And who are the favourites in the men’s race?
It will surprise few to discover that the bookmakers have made the cyclo-cross specialists — as former France national champion we are including Julian Alaphilippe in here — favourites, and not without good reason.
With the shortest odds Mathieu van der Poel (15/4), the four-time world cyclo-cross world champion, is the favourite and will arrive in Tuscany in fine form. Won his first race of the season, stage one at the UAE Tour, before returning to Europe where he animated Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne with a huge effort. Just days later the big Dutchman appeared poised to win Le Samyn before his handlebars snapped. Raced Strade Bianche just once in 2020, though suffered a series of mechanical issues and was 15th.
Alaphilippe, meanwhile, is joint second favourite with the bookmakers (9/2). The world champion, however, has form — both current and historical — and won here in 2019 so may just edge it over Van der Poel. The Frenchman has looked lively in both races he has started this year: attacking on a rolling first stage of the Tour de la Provence before later challenging on Mont Ventoux then a fortnight later went solo at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Barring disasters will be involved at the business end.
Defending champion Wout van Aert is on the same odds as Alaphilippe and although the Belgian has not raced on the road this year, a heavy block of racing through the sand and mud of northern Europe, where he clinched the cyclo-cross World Cup, should ensure he arrives in good enough nick to once again finish on the podium. The 26-year-old has started three times, each time finishing on the podium and knows what it takes to win. Will be desperate to beat rival and nemesis Van der Poel.
Making his debut and competing in only the second WorldTour race of his career, with odds of 12/1 young British rider Tom Pidcock is the bookmakers’s fourth favourite. Though just 21, the Yorkshireman is a phenomena. Following a largely anonymous debut for Ineos Grenadiers at the Tour du Haut Var, made an instant impression at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad where he rode aggressively. The next day at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne he was third. In both races showed no fear while racing against seasoned professionals and may just do something very special.
But who else could win in Siena?
While Van der Poel, Van Aert and Alaphilippe may be the outstanding favourites, Strade Bianche is a race that can also suit another type of rider. A rider that ordinarily is seen excelling in the high mountains and so do not be surprised if Tadej Pogacar or his UAE Team Emirates team-mate Davide Formolo, who was runner-up here in 2020, threaten to get on the podium. Equally Romain Bardet, who was second in 2018, may also fancy his chances alongside DSM team-mate Tiesj Benoot who won the race three years ago. Trek-Segafredo rider Bauke Mollema arrives in good form having won Trofeo Laigueglia midweek and is an outside bet to finish on the podium, while the same could be said for 2019 runner-up Jakob Fuglsang (Astana-Premier Tech). Alberto Bettiol, from Poggibonsi under 30km from the start line, may also fancy his chances on his seventh appearance at the race after the EF Education-Nippo rider managed his best result yet at here in 2020 with fourth place.
With arguably the strongest team of all, Deceuninck-Quick Step have a number of riders that could take the win should Alaphilippe falter, either with a mechanical issue or if he just does not have the legs. Former winner Zdenek Stybar is the obvious candidate to step up, though the in-form Kasper Asgreen could also do something, while their young Portuguese climber Joao Almeida will be making his debut at the race, though appears to enjoy competing in Italy. If for whatever reason, a small group goes off the front and is not closed down by what most are assuming will contest the win then Dries Devenyns, Pieter Serry or man-of-the-moment Davide Ballerini spring off for a surprise victory.
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