Without question, Strade Bianche is one of, if not the most, beautiful races of the season.
Strade Bianche on Saturday 6th March is the first WorldTour level classic that takes place on Italian soil. The race takes place in central Italy, just south of Firenze in Tuscan hills, making for a stunning setting.
The riders will take on over 3000 metres of climbing throughout the day, which is incredible because there are few climbs longer than one kilometre in length. Constant short hills and descents await the competition, making this a race of attrition. Strade Bianche is unique in the sense that gravel roads are scattered throughout, a rare sight in a road race. The winner must be strong in many senses if they are to cross the line victorious in the Siena.
Strade Bianche, 2021 profile (via La Flamme Rouge)
Only 42 of the 166 starters finished the race in 2020, displaying Strade’s brutality perfectly. Wout Van Aert won solo in Siena that day after attacking with 12km to go, dropping Davide Formolo and Maxi Schachmann, who both finished on the podium.
It was Van Aert’s first of six victories in 2020 on the road. He will kick-off his 2021 season in Italy as he looks to make it back-to-back victories on the famous white Italian roads. He perhaps starts as the out-and-out favourite, as ever, though, the competition is stellar.
2019 winner Julian Alaphilippe is back at Strade after missing the race in 2020. Deceuninck have a strong line-up in Italy, where 2015 winner Zdeněk Štybar will join Alaphilippe. The Czech man has wracked up a series of impressive results here — since his win in 2015 he has finished in the top-10 every year.
Jakob Fuglsang is a force to be reckoned with in the classics. He was just beaten to the line by Alaphilippe in 2019 and finished in the top-5 last year. Although he has never won the race, Fuglsang will start as a premier contender.
UAE-Team Emirates finished second last year with Davide Formolo, and clearly have intentions of going one better this year, bringing Marc Hirschi and Tadej Pogačar to join up with Formolo in Italy. We know Formolo can go well here, and although Hirschi and Pogačar have never finished in the top 10, the race should suit them.
Tim Wellens is a rider that always starts the season well and proved that again this year by winning a stage and the overall classification at Étoile de Bessèges. He has only ridden Strade twice but finished in the top 10 on both occasions, including a podium finish in 2017.
Strade Bianche is one race that Greg Van Avermaet is yet to conquer in his illustrious career. He finished second in 2015 and 2017, beaten by Štybar and Kwiatkwoski respectively. After finishing eighth in 2020, GVA will look to put that record straight with his new team AG2R Citroën.
Oh yeah, one more rider we should mention, Mathieu van der Poel – heard of him? He only managed 15th last year in his first appearance at the race, but the gravelled, hilly roads should suit his style. He will be disappointed not to improve on that result this year.
Favourites: Jakob Fuglsang, Julian Alaphilippe, Wout Van Aert, Zdeněk Štybar, Tim Wellens
Outsiders: Tom Pidcock, Matej Mohorič, Søren Kragh Andersen, Quinn Simmons
Cover image: LB/RB/CorVos/SWpix