The so-called Classics come in all different shapes and sizes, but one stands out from the crowd with its own uniqueness ? Strade Bianche, with its now infamous Tuscan white gravel roads. This Saturday sees the 10th edition of the iconic one-day race in Siena, Italy, at which Tinkoff will arrive with a powerful line-up capable of results across the board.
Peter Sagan headlines the team at this race following a strong start to his European campaign in Belgium last weekend, taking second and seventh at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne respectively. The World Champion and twice runner-up at the race leads a strong eight-rider roster that includes two others who have both finished in the top ten at Strade Bianche before, in Oscar Gatto and Roman Kreuziger.
“It?s a pretty special race Strade Bianche, even though it doesn?t yet have the history of some of the other classics it is becoming an important race in the calendar,? explained Sport Director Patxi Vila. ?It?s a nice objective for our team and we go into the race with a strong team led by Peter Sagan.”
Peter Sagan got his Classics campaign off to a strong start in Belgium. Photo by Bettini Photo
Joining Peter, Oscar and Roman, is winner of a stage of the Ruta del Sol in February, Daniele Bennati, as well as 2016 Tour Down Under stage winner, Jay McCarthy. Adam Blythe, Maciej Bodnar and Manuele Boaro complete the team.
Peter Sagan gave his thoughts ahead of the race he?s flirted with victory at before, saying: ?I have already raced Strade Bianche several times and I must say that I really like it, it?s a really unique race. The terrain is close to my heart and if all goes to plan on the dirt roads I could do well again here.?
Teammate Roman Kreuziger added: ?The Strade Bianche is a demanding race because of the climbs as well as the tough gravel sectors. However, these aren’t the only decisive parts. You have to be focused from the outset until you bring back the breakaway ? you can’t allow a breakaway to become too big because it will then become very difficult to control.?
Roman Kreuziger has two top 10 finishes at Strade Bianche to his name. Photo by Bettini Photo
He continued by saying: ?You have to be attentive and prepared for anything during the entire five hours. Last year, the wind was a factor to take into consideration, and weather conditions could come into play again this year. Unlike other races, you can’t relax, thinking you can hide in the first 100 kilometres and race afterwards. I consider it to be very good preparation for the big Classics, not only in terms of building your form but also on how you move inside the group and how you handle the small details.”
The race, slightly shorter than last year?s edition, covers 176km and will start in the spectacular city of Siena for the first time before covering a total of nine sectors, totalling 52.8km, of the white gravel roads that symbolise this race. The first sector comes after just 11km meaning positioning and attention are vital from the off.
The riders that are left after battling through the dust storms and over the energy sapping, rolling Tuscan roads will have one final obstacle to tackle, with the traditional cobbled climb to the finish line in the centre of Siena. Previous editions have proved this a perfect launch pad from which to strike out for victory at this prestigious prelude to the Spring Classics.
Assessing the team?s chances for the race, Vila continued by saying: ?Peter has shown previously that he can fight for the win here, and although it?s still early in the season he showed last weekend despite only just returning to racing from a period of training that he?s already in good shape. He will be supported here by riders who could also play their part in the outcome if the situation on the road changes, including Oscar Gatto and Roman Kreuziger.”
The first of the day?s difficulties falls after just 11km with the 2.1km straight gravel sector leading into the day?s first climb, the paved Passo del Rospatoio. The second gravel section is one of the most iconic of the race, following the town of Murlo. The town of Torrenieri signifies the start of two back-to-back sectors, the first of which runs for 11.9km, with only 1km of tarmac between. The fifth and sixth sectors are both nearly equally as long, with the latter probably the toughest of the day, gradually climbing most of the way.
The seventh sector is short at just 800m, but it ramps up punishingly at the end for a sting in the tail. There?s not much respite before the penultimate sector inside the final 20km which sees gradients reaching double figures before levelling off towards the final sector of the day, the rolling 1.1km ninth sector with uphill and descent to navigate. From this point there?s only 12km remaining to the line in Siena, but who will be left at the front of the race?
Sector 1 – 2.1km in length
Sector 2 – 5.5km in length
Sector 3 – 11.9km in length
Sector 4 – 8km in length
Sector 5 – 9.5km in length
Sector 6 – 11.5km in length
Sector 7 – 0.8km in length
Sector 8 – 2.4km in length
Sector 9 – 1.1km in length