Date: Saturday March 4, 2023
Total distance: 184km (men), 136km (women)
Defending champion: Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates), Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx)
Strade Bianche gained prestige quickly when the men's race began in 2007, attracting some of the world’s best cyclists to the white roads of Tuscany. In 2017, the one-day race was awarded UCI WorldTour status and has now become a must-do Classics race in many of the pro's calendars.
Strade Bianche translates to “white roads” and this is a defining feature of the race, with one-third of the overall route being gravel. The route is split into sections, with 11 sections being raced on the dirt roads of Tuscany. Testing the rider's bike handling and climbing abilities, the route does not just feature white roads but also steep climbs and winding descents over 184 kilometres.
Fabian Cancellara is the only rider to hold the record for winning the Strade Bianche three times in a row, winning in 2008, 2012, and 2016. The only other rider who has come close to Cancellara’s record is Polish rider Michal Kwiatkowski who has won the race twice in 2014 and 2017.
Other champions include Philippe Gilbert, Zdeněk Štybar, Tiesj Benoot, Julian Alaphilippe, Wout van Aert, Mathieu van der Poel and, in 2022, Tadej Pogačar.
Riders who have won the race three times have the honour of having a section of gravel named after them. As Cancellara is the only rider in the history of the race to achieve this feat, section eight, an 11.5km long section in Monte Sante Marie, is named after him.
On the start line for the men's race this year is the likes of Tom Pidcock, Julian Alaphilippe, Mathieu van der Poel, and Matej Mohorič, and with two of the key pre-race favourites, Wout van Aert and Tadej Pogačar, deciding not to take part in Strade Bianche this year, the men’s race could be slightly more open for a tighter-fought battle for victory.
Strade Bianche men's teams:
- AG2R Citroën Team
- Astana Qazaqstan
- EF Education-EasyPost
- Ineos Grenadiers
- Soudal Quick-Step
- Team Arkéa-Samsic
- Team DSM
- Jayco Alula
- UAE Team Emirates
- Eolo-Kometa Cycling Team
- Green Project-Bardiani CSF-Faizané
- Israel Premier Tech
- Lotto dtsny
- Q36.5 Pro Cycling Team
- Tudor Pro Cycling Team
Strade Bianche 2023 route (men):
Starting in Siena, the men's peloton will set off on the 184km route which is defined by punchy climbs and 63km of gravel roads. After the first 18km of undulating road, they will reach the first section of gravel. Only 2.1km in length and with a slight downhill, this section eases the riders nicely into the race. The real challenge begins only a few kilometres later on section two, which is a short descent followed by a long climb with a 10% average gradient. A taste of what's to come.
The peloton will then continue through to Radi, where they'll reach sections three (4.4km) and four (5.5km). Section four, named La Piana, is one of the race's classic gravel sections and has featured in every Strade Bianche since its first edition. This leads the riders to Buonconvento where they will hit the second climb of the day – Montalcino – a 4km-long climb with an average gradient of 5%. Up and over the Montalcino, the route will take the peloton down into Torrenieri where sections five (11.9km) and six (8km) of gravel greets the riders. With only 1km of road between the two punchy gravel sections, this is where the race will really begin to get exciting.
The route then reaches Monteroni d'Abria, marking the start of section seven. The 9.5km gravel section is a long, up and down stint, ending with a twisting climb before the riders hit the tarmac once again. A short descent on the road brings the riders to the base of the Monte Sante Marie climb and the start of section eight (11.5km) – arguably the toughest gravel section of the race.
An undulating ride on tarmac takes the peloton to the shortest gravel section at just 800m long. Despite being the shortest section, it is by no means the easiest, treating the riders to a double-digit gradient ramp before they rejoin the tarmac in Vico d'Arbia through to Pieve a Bozzone. From there, it's not long until the penultimate gravel section of the day is upon the peloton. The Strada di Colle Pinzuto is 2.4km in length and will test weary legs as it opens with a 15% ramp and keeps climbing right until the end. While hairpin bends help to ease the climb, loose gravel will test the riders' bike handling skills.
Only 18km to go and one gravel section stands between the riders and the finish line, but Le Tolfe will require concentration and skill as the 1.1km section opens with a 18% gradient descent. Back on smooth ground, the majority of the final kilometres winds downhill into Siena.
It is only in the final kilometre that the route spikes back up and the riders are welcomed back into the city with a 16% gradient climb on large, rough stone slabs. The iconic Via Santa Caterina climb is the final hurdle before the flat finish onto the Piazza del Campo.
Strade Bianche Donne
Following the success of the men’s race, the women's peloton first raced the Strade Bianche Donne in 2015, on the same day as the men. It has been the opening race for the Women’s WorldTour calendar since 2016 up until this year when the Santos Tour Down Under became the opening race. This doesn’t take the shine off the Strade Bianche Donne however, with the white roads of Tuscany attracting a stellar line-up of female cyclists.
While it is shorter in distance than the men’s race at 136km, the race is no easier and still contains eight or nine sections of gravel, and six climbs, including the 16% climb to the finish line along Via Santa Caterina.
British rider Lizzie Armitstead won the inaugural Strade Bianche Donne in 2016 while wearing the rainbow stripes as the women's world champion. The following year Elisa Longo Borghini won the race, becoming the first ever Italian to win the Strade Bianche in both the men’s and women’s races.
They are joined by other Strade Bianche Donne champions; Anna van der Breggen, Annemiek van Vleuten, Chantel van den Broek-Blaak, and most recently in 2022, Lotte Kopecky. Van Vleuten is the only female rider to have won the title twice, having won in 2019 and 2020.
Kopecky will be back to defend her title this year but so will Van Vleuten as she looks to reclaim the top spot. Other riders such as Demi Vollering, Kasia Niewiadoma, Silvia Persico, and Elisa Balsamo will all be looking to make their mark on this one-day Italian Classic.
Strade Bianche Donne 2023 teams:
- Canyon//SRAM Racing
- Team DSM
- Israel Premier Tech Roland
- EF Education-TIBCO-SVB
- Jayco AlUla
- Cofidis Women Team
- CERATIZIT-WNT Pro Cycling
- Team SD Worx
- Liv Raving TeqFind
- UAE Team ADQ
Strade Bianche Donne 2023 route:
Many of the gravel sections on the men's route is shared by the women, so while the women's route is slightly shorter at 136km, it still contains the punchy climbs and technical descents. Starting in Siena, the women's peloton will head out of the city for 18km until they reach their first gravel section of the day. The 2.1km stint on gravel welcomes the riders to the white roads of Tuscany.
It's not long until the first real challenge of the day, a 5.8km gravel climb up to Ville di Corsano. The route then takes the peloton through to Radi, where they will then take on section three (4.4km) and four (5.5km) of gravel. Back on the tarmac after section four, the riders should sail smoothly to Monteroni d'Arbia where section five begins. The 9.5km gravel section in the middle of Crete Senesi is a long section defined by its ups and downs with a final kick up at the end before the wheels hit the tarmac once again.
It is almost 40km before the peloton reaches the next gravel section. Only 800m in length, section six is a punchy double-digit climb to Vico d'Arbia where they will rejoin the road and head to Pieve a Bozzone.
Nearing the end of the route, the penultimate section towards Colle Pinzuto is 2.4km in length with an uphill gradient of up to 15%. Section eight, the last gravel section of the day, is only 1.1km long but features in a series of demanding descents and punchy climbs which takes the women's peloton to the last kilometre of the race.
The final kilometre for the women's is the same as the men, passing beneath the Fontebranda Gate, where they will ride the remainder of the race on Siena's playing slabs, they will climb the iconic road in Via Santa Caterina and continue to climb until they are 30m from the finish line, where the routes descends before flattening out.
Where to watch Strade Bianche 2023
Coverage of both the men's and women's races will be streamed live on GCN+ for those watching from the UK and Europe. If you do not have the time to tune in live, GCN+ also offers full race replays.
Eurosport and Discovery+ will also be covering the race live. If you have a SkyQ, Sky Stream and Sky Glass subscription, you are now able to sign up to Discovery+ for free as part of your package.