What's Cool In Road Cycling

PEZ Previews: La Strade Bianche!

Eight sectors of gravel road, dust and hills. That’s the Strade Bianche. A young competition that inspires because it reminds of old times. Siena, Italy: we are in the south of the Tuscany region. Hills and horses, no trees but a wide green land, rich, and really exclusive.

The desert of the “crete”. This is a special land lost in the middle of Italy.

Here you can find the best food, the best country houses, the …best. Locals are very open and know how to treat tourists. Cycling is something new for this region but we are already at the fifth edition. No an Italian has won it yet. Just Ballan was second in the 2008 when Cancellara was over everybody else.

The mix of dirt roads, endless hills, and the Chianti countryside make this race special.

This year the tifosi are waiting for Visconti, the Italian Champion, a lover of this competition. The selection usually takes place in the fifth sector of white road. The longest is the first one. The last two are short steep climbs. The last kilometre is a mix of hard climb and crazy turns in the narrow roads of the old town. The finish is in the terrific Campo. Famous for the summer “Palio” the wild horses competition.

I watched this race for the first time last year. I will chase it again this year. The plan is confirmed: why change when you find something special? The best place to stay is the Pozzo di Radi, a special bed and breakfast owned by Stefano.

Stefano from Bed & breakfast Il Pozzo di Radi cutting the tagliata.

He is a fantastic cook and he entertains the guests with funny (but real) stories about the Palio. He doesn’t know anything about cycling but he is really an expert in this horse race. He knows facts, rumors that only a person living there a whole life can. The one day competition taking place every summer is alive and continues from one year to another. This is not different from cycling at all!

Pay attention! But it’s beautiful to ride on these roads.

From Asciano to Torre a Castello the worst sector of gravel road.

The local soup is called “ribollita”. It’s a soup boiled two times and mixed with bread. The base vegetable it’s the local black cabbage. Doesn’t sound good, I know, but you have to try first. No mention about the “fiorentina”, the local T-bone steak. But Stefano’s speciality is the prosciutto cut. He cuts it without machines and he gives to the slice the right thickness. Wow.

Yes, that is. The cycling paradise.

The descent of climb – there’s no rest anyway.

The Pozzo di Radi is located in Radi, which is placed in the middle of the first gravel road sector. After a fat breakfast you can enjoy the race passage. The first sector is quite difficult but it’s coming too early in the race (just after 30 kilometres). Another passage you can’t miss is the one in the fifth sector to Monte Sante Marie. A roller coaster with steep hills and dangerous descents.

The dangerous descents usually decide this race.

Siena from the bottom. The race climbs to the old town in the last kilometer.

Finally a run to Siena to live the final meters of this competition? Who will win? Well, it’s not so important for us. We have just to look forward to a great edition and an open battle till the beginning.

Il Campo di Siena. One of the most beautiful squares in Italy.

Do not forget to bring a bike with you when you’ll come into this land. It’s painful be there without her.

Fasten your seatbelt. Race is coming.

Keep it dialed to PEZ for all the action this Saturday, and Ale’s Roadside report on Monday.

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