Strade Bianche 2021: When is it, which teams are racing, what TV channel is showing it 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.

Taking its lead from the huge popularity of Eroica, the non-competitive amateur event that traverses the chalky white roads of Tuscany and requires riders to complete the event on retro steel bicycles, RCS Sport, organisers of the Giro d’Italia, launched Strade Bianche in 2007 — then called Monte Paschi Eroica — when Alexandr Kolobnev prevailed.

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.

Strade Bianche 2021

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 . . .

Strade Bianche women

And what do the profiles look like?

This is the men’s race . . .

Strade Bianche 2021 men's race profile

. . . and here’s the women’s . . . 

Strade Bianche 2021 women's race profile

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 11km of smooth asphalt before reaching the race’s first sector of gravel which is relatively benign at just over 2.1km long. This dead straight road which is slightly downhill should not test the riders too much, but will give the debutants at this race their first taste of the white roads in racing conditions.

Following a brief return to the asphalt, a slightly tougher stretch of gravel awaits the peloton. At just below 6km — 5.8km, to be precise — section two will provide the riders their first challenge as the road ramps up towards Ville di Corsano at gradients that go above 10 per cent.

Two further sections follow at 36.9.km and 47.6km respectively, clocking in at 4.4km (section three) and section four that is named La Piana (5.5km long). Neither feature any climbs that appear too tricky, but will play their part in softening up anybody that has not brought their best legs to the party as the race heads towards Buonconvento for the first time.

The second climb of the day, the Montalcino — 4km long at five per cent average gradient — precedes section five which is 11.9km in length. A short 1,000-metre stretch of asphalt punctuates the course, before section six which is slightly shorter at 8km. Both are relatively tough, though neither are expected to cause too many issues for the key riders.

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.

Section seven, which begins in San Martino in Grania and is 9.5km in length is where the race, traditionally, starts to take shape. With numerous little kickers there are plenty of opportunities for those feeling strong to press hard and apply the pressure. Towards the end of the long stretch of gravel there is a twisty climb before a descent, on asphalt, towards section eight. 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 will do nothing of the kind. Similarly to Paris-Roubaix, attacks often follow immediately after gravel sections.


Next up is the most famous, and feared, section of the race. With 130km of racing in the legs, section eight which is 11.5km begins in Ponte del Garbo before heading towards Monte Sante Marie. It may look beguiling in photographs and on television, but trust me this rolling stretch of road is really hard to ride. With numerous short and steep climbs — and descents — this is widely regarded as the hardest gravel section of the race.

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 not long or decisive enough to be considered an official ‘section’. Next up is a horrible 800-metre stretch — section nine — that will feel like riding up a wall as the road’s gradient goes well into double digits. With just 24km of the race remaining, the selection will either have been made, or is very much in the post.

Final 20km of the men’s race

Strade Bianche - final 20km

The penultimate sector of gravel — section 10 — may only be 2.4km long, but the Colle Pinzuto climb tops out at 15 per cent in gradient, before the final gravel section of the day follows a few kilometres later. Again, it is a short one but section 11 features a vicious climb at 18 per cent. That’s going to hurt, but the race is far from over yet.

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

Strade Bianche - final 3km

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

finale

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 . . . 

What teams will ride at Strade Bianche?

As with all WorldTour races, each of the 19 teams that make up the top-flight of men’s professional cycling receive an invite and in the case of Strade Bianche all teams are contracted to race.

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.

WorldTour teams

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).

Cofidis, Solutions Crédits (Fra): Natnael Berhane (Eri), Tom Bohli (Swi), Andre Carvalho (Por), Thomas Champion (Fra, neo-pro), Nicolas Edet (Fra), Nathan Haas (Aus), Fabio Sabatini (Ita).

Deceuninck-Quick Step (Bel): Julian Alaphilippe (Fra), Joao Almeida (Por), Kasper Asgreen (Den), Davide Ballerini (Ita), Dries Devenyns (Bel), Pieter Serry (Bel), Zdenek Stybar (Cze).

DSM (Ger): Thymen Arensman (Hol, neo-pro), Romain Bardet (Fra), Romain Combaud (Fra), Chris Hamilton (Aus), JJoris Nieuwenhuis (Hol), Martijn Tusveld (Hol), Kevin Vermaerke (US).

EF Education-Nippo (US): Alberto Bettiol (Ita), Simon Carr (GB, neo-pro), Lawson Craddock (US), Mitchell Docker (Aus), Alex Howes (US), Sebastian Langeveld (Hol), Julius van den Berg (Hol).

Groupama-FDJ (Fra): Kevin Geniets (Hol), Simon Guglielmi (Fra), Stefan Küng (Swi), Tobias Ludvigsson (Swe), Valentin Madouas (Fra), Rudy Molard (Fra), Romain Seigle (Fra).

Ineos Grenadiers (GB): Leonardo Basso (Ita), Egan Bernal (Col), Owain Doull (GB), Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol), Tom Pidcock (GB, neo-pro), Salvatore Puccio (Ita), Pavel Sivakov (Rus).

Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux (Bel): Jan Bakelants (Bel), Theo Delacroix (Fra, neo-pro), Tom Devriendt (Bel), Andrea Pasqualon (Ita), Simone Petilli (Ita), Lorenzo Rota (Ita), Loïc Vliegen (Bel).

Israel Start-up Nation (Isr): Jenthe Biermans (Bel), Guillaume Boivin (Can), Alessandro De Marchi (Ita), Reto Hollenstein (Swi), Alexis Renard (Fra, neo-pro), Mads Wurtz Schmidt (Den), Tom Van Asbroeck (Bel).

Jumbo-Visma (Hol): Tobias Foss (Nor, neo-pro), Robert Gesink (Hol), Chris Harper (Aus), Paul Martens (Ger), Timo Roosen (Hol), Wout van Aert (Bel), Nathan Van Hooydonck (Bel).

Lotto-Soudal (Bel): Filippo Conca (Ita, neo-pro), Frederik Frison (Bel), Andreas Kron (Den), Tomasz Marczynski (Pol), Tosh Van der Sande (Bel), Brent Van Moer (Bel), Tim Wellens (Bel).

Movistar (Spa): Héctor Carretero (Spa), Iván García Cortina (Spa), Abner González (Pur, neo-pro), Lluís Mas (Spa), Sergio Samitier (Spa), Gonzalo Serrano (Spa), Alejandro Valverde (Spa).

Qhubeka-Assos (SA): Simon Clarke (Aus), Michael Gogl (Aut), Bert-Jan Lindeman (Hol), Robert Power (Aus), Mauro Schmid (Swi, neo-pro), Karel Vacek (Cze), Emil Vinjebo (Den).

Trek-Segafredo (US): Gianluca Brambilla (Ita), Nicola Conci (Ita), Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier (Eri), Bauke Mollema (Hol), Antonio Nibali (Ita), Quinn Simmons (US, neo-pro), Toms Skujins (Lat).

UAE Team Emirates (UAE): Valerio Conti (Ita), Davide Formolo (Ita), Vegard Stake Laengen (Nor), Marco Marcato (Ita), Tadej Pogacar (Slo), Jan Polanc (Slo), Alexandr Riabushenko (Blr).

UCI Professional Continental teams

Alpecin-Fenix (Bel): Xandro Meurisse (Bel), Jonas Rickaert (Bel), Petr Vakoc (Cze), Mathieu van der Poel (Hol), Otto Vergaerde (Bel), Gianni Vermeersch (Bel), Philipp Walsleben (Ger).

Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec (Ita): Mattia Bais (Ita), Jefferson Cepeda (Ecu), Simon Pellaud (Swi), Josip Rumac (Cro), Filippo Tagliani (Ita), Nicola Venchiarutti (Ita), Mattia Viel (Ita).

Bardiani-CSF-Faizane (Ita): Davide Gabburo (Ita), Fabio Mazzucco (Ita), Alessandro Tonelli (Ita), Giovanni Visconti (Ita), Filippo Zaccanti (Ita), Filippo Zana (Ita), Samuele Zoccarato (Ita).

Vini Zabu (Ita): Liam Bertazzo (Ita), Mattia Bevilacqua (Ita), Andrea Di Renzo (Ita), Marco Frapporti (Ita), Kamil Gradek (Pol), 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.

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