7 March 2017
Sundays in April are saved for watching the classics. Some of us prefer Paris – Roubaix, while others like to watch Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Since a couple of years a one-day race in Italy is getting more and more popular. It’s the Strade Bianche. It is an Italian classic, held in the first or second weekend of March. The race takes place in Tuscany and contains more than 60 kilometres of white gravel roads. That is what makes the race a hard and difficult one and it is certainly one of the toughest races of the cycling season.
Beautiful views during the race / © Tim de Waele
The first edition was an recreational race held in 1997, only for vintage bikes. The race also had a different name: Monte Paschi Eroica. At a certain moment the organisation felt that it was a good idea to let professionals participate in this race too. So in 2007 the first race for professionals took place. In 2009 the name of the race was changed to Strade Bianche (in English white streets) and that is still the name of the race today. Right now, the race for professionals exists eleven years and has reached the status of ‘instant classic’. In the last couple of years it gets more media attention, thousands of Italian fans are on the roads to cheer for the riders and the riders are lyrical about it. Most of them have a big smile on their face at the start and that smile is still there when they finish the race. For example, in the last edition Peter Sagan was actually sick and not able to race, but he still started the race, stating that “Strade Bianche is a prestigious race”. Vincenzo Nibali crossed the finish without winning and still called it “happiness”, Tom Dumoulin’s reaction to the race was “boy oh boy, was that cool”, and he also never was able to win the race. It says enough about the popularity of the race among riders.
As of this year, the race is added to the UCI World Tour calendar. That means that the event can be seen as an important and prestigious race. It is becoming one of the biggest Spring Classics, even though the race is still young. But the beautiful environment of Tuscany, the dusty riders on the bike and the epic fights on the gravel roads make the race already monumental.
Michal Kwiatkowski (winner in 2014 and 2017) with Fabian Cancellara (winner in 2008, 2012 and 2016) / © Strade Bianche