Strade Bianche is the first Italian race on the WorldTour calendar. It takes place on the 5th March 2022, with the infamous route skirting some of Tuscany’s most brutal, but also beautiful, white gravel climbs. The action will come to a head in the stunning old town of Siena.
Despite the race only beginning in 2007, Strade Bianche has quickly become a big fan favourite — often as hotly anticipated as the Monuments themselves. Strade Bianche comes just before the start of Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico, and just two weeks ahead of the first Monument of Milan-San Remo.
The routes for the men’s and women’s Strade Bianche have been revealed with the men facing an 184km course and the women racing on a far shorter 136km route.
Men's Strade Bianche Route Profile
The men take on 11 gravel sectors as they wind their way through the undulating Tuscan countryside. The first comes very early in the race after just 17.6km of riding. The last comes almost 100km later and with just 10km until the finish in the Piazza del Campo.
Women's Strade Bianche Route Profile
The women’s event takes on a 136km route with 8 gravel sections along the way on a similarly challenging route.
Perhaps what most endears fans to Strade Bianche is that it mixes up the Classics riders with the puncheurs, and even some of the Grand Tour GC contenders. Egan Bernal, for instance, took to the podium in 2021, while Tadej Pogačar pulled off a strong 7th on his debut.
Bernal is still in rehabilitation from his terrible training crash in January, meaning he won't start the race this year. However, Pogačar absolutely will, he comes to Europe after opening his season at the UAE Tour.
Alongside Grand Tour winners, other big names who will be in attendance include World Champion and 2019 Strade Bianche winner Julian Alaphilippe. He was overpowered in 2021 by Mathieu van der Poel and may be on the hunt for retribution.
Other stars down on the start list are Tim Wellens, Benoît Cosnefroy, Greg Van Avermaet, Alejandro Valverde, Jakob Fuglsang and Ide Schelling. Tom Pidcock is out of the race with a stomach virus, so won't be on the start line, but Ineos Grenadiers still start with a strong team which includes Jhonatan Narváez and Richard Carapaz.
Young American rider Quinn Simmons performed strongly in Strade Bianche last year but was hampered with bad luck and punctures, he'll be looking to improve on this in 2022. Bahrain Victorious bring Matej Mohorič who could contest for the win on a good day, while Groupama-FDJ have Thibaut Pinot in their roster who showed good form earlier this season at Tour des Alpes Maritimes et du Var.
Tiesj Benoot, winner of Strade Bianche in 2018 (Image: Nico Vereecken/PN//Cor Vos/SWpix)
Winner of Omloop het Nieuwsblad, Wout van Aert, won't take to the start of Strade Bianche in 2022, despite winning the race in 2020. The Belgian champion has explained that he is trying to avoid targeting every big race this year in order to increase the longevity of his season.
Tiesj Benoot, is a rider who has won this race in the past and he showed some fantastic form while riding in support of teammate Van Aert at Omloop het Nieuwsblad last weekend. The Belgian rider will likely be the protected rider for Jumbo-Visma at Strade Bianche, and it will be interesting to see how he does with the whole squad dedicated to his result.
The last few seasons have proven that the women’s professional peloton can prove even more exciting and unpredictable than the men’s field.
Chantal van den Broek-Blaak won Strade Bianche last year with a late move that saw her get away from a group that contained her teammates Demi Vollering and (now retired) Anna van der Breggen.
Of course, SD Worx don’t have Van der Breggen on their roster anymore, but the talent that Vollering brings means she should be one of the big favourites. Vollering has showed her 2022 form already – she was the only rider able to stay with Annemiek van Vleuten when the Movistar rider launched her blistering attack in Omloop het Nieuwsblad last weekend.
Vollering's teammate, Belgian national champion Lotte Kopecky could, on a very good day, be in contention. Van der Breggen will be in her new role in the sport's director seat of the SD Worx team car at the race and her expertise could give the team the upper hand.
Movistar brings Annemiek van Vleuten to the women’s WorldTour race, who as the winner of the overall WorldTour ranking in 2021, will be hoping to get her 2022 campaign off to a solid start. Van Vleuten dominated Omloop het Nieuwsbald last weekend, which, although not a WorldTour race, had a WorldTour level field. With her season opening, she firmly asserted herself as one of the strongest and most versatile riders in the women's peloton at the moment.
Kasia Niewiadoma of Canyon-SRAM is always a danger and should have a solid team around her. Niewiadoma's teammate, Pauliena Rooijakkers, could also suit the parcours of Strade Bianche.
Marianne Vos will be leading her Jumbo-Visma squad as she looks to win the race for the very first time, Strade Bianche is one of few races the cyclocross world champion hasn’t won.Following her pregnancy announcement, Lizzie Deignan won't take to the start for Trek-Segafredo, but the American team still have a plethora of options. Italian champion Elisa Longo-Borghini and world champion Elisa Balsamo are the two riders who will likely be protected by the team.
Trek will also be using Tayler Wiles in their line-up, a key domestique for her teammates on the hilly parcours of Strade Bianche.
Cecile Uttrup Ludwig (Image: Thomas Maheux/FDJ)
FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope will likely use a two-pronged attack with Cecile Uttrup Ludwig and new signing Grace Brown, they are a team which should not be overlooked.
For the men’s event we pick Julian Alaphilippe to take his second victory at the race, especially since Van Aert and Van der Poel are both not on the start line.
In the women’s race we predict Demi Vollering will take victory for the first time. She finished in 6th place in 2021, in just her second ride at Strade Bianche. The Dutch rider has been getting to grips with the gravel in multiple training rides this winter, as seen on her Instagram, so she will be familiar with the terrain of the white roads.
Cover image by LB/RB/CorVos/SWpix.com