What's Cool In Road Cycling

PEZ Goes Roadside: Strade Bianche 2013

Our man in Italy Alessandro is back in his element on the picturesque roads of Tuscany as he chased the Strade Bianche on Saturday. Here’s a look at his day in his unique Italian style from one of the most beautiful races of the year.



The moment I drive again on the sector of white road that takes me north towards Gaiole in Chianti I understand that another year has passed. It’s an unknown sector of gravel which is not touched by the race. It passes through an old village and a very nice fountain stays in between two trees.

I take a picture of this road in the early morning and I leave the engine idle running while I upload the picture onto my facebook page. Outside of the car it’s still cold; it’s early, it’s silent, it’s quiet. There’s nobody around and sometimes I check on the back mirror if a car is coming. But there’s nobody, it’s just me alone on ‘my’ roads of the Strade Bianche.

I’ve driven through the night and I’m ready to watch one of the most waited event of the year: Strade Bianche can start.

The departure village is getting crowded when I meet Jered and Ashley. We’ve chased a lot of races together in the past and it’s nice to meet them and make some plans together for the race to come – “Tirreno?” – “We don’t know yet, but we will be in Milan for the Sanremo” – let’s make some plans for the Primavera, but the race today is quite challenging to cover well; it’s too beautiful and there’s the risk you try to watch too many passages and miss the crucial one. I have some years of experience and I give them some suggestions – “You can’t do sector 1 and 3 unless you watch the 1 just at the very beginning” – “Let’s meet on the road!” – I leave the departure village with some advance and I shortcut in the Senese country spotting some nice picture of Siena towers.

I waste some minutes and I arrive to sector 1 just a few minutes before the group. Just the time to watch them climbing a hill from far and I’m already driving to the sector three.

I bought a couple of “panini” and their smell is teasing my stomach; it’s too early to eat and too dangerous while driving. I will eat them while waiting for the race.

I wait for the race at the crossroad to Montalcino: there are 4 guys ahead and they have 6 minutes on the bunch that is proceeding quite quickly.

The pace of the 4 is fast because of the strong wind; helping them to maintain the speed; but after sector 3 the things will change with the wind in front.

The sector 3 is the famous one everybody knows because of the iconic picture every magazine or newspaper shows with the hill with the lonely three and the group descending. Last year I was on that hill but today I decide to do something different. I meet again Jered who’s freezing because of the strong chilly wind blowing from north. A quick chat and again on the road; I pass the 100 km point and I find my place near an old farm. It’s the time for the panini; one is with mortadella and the other one with finocchiona (a salami with fennel typical from Tuscany).

The four in the break are already coming and this time they have ten minutes on the group. But now the speed in the peloton is increased and there are already several riders losing wheels. The roads are a little bit wet today because of the big rains of the last weeks, so there’s not the usual dust you can see on the white roads but still it’s enough to eat a pound if you’re behind the group chasing hard with your mouth open to breathe.

Next stop it’s the terrible fifth sector: Monte Sante Marie. It’s really hard and dangerous with several descents and a continuous change of gradient. I thought that was where the end of the break would be but they pass with still some minutes in the pocket and in the group there’s nobody really chasing, except for Flecha who’s now pushing hard and attacking.

Flecha making a brave solo bid.

Too early to leave alone. Cancellara is quiet, Sagan is quiet; they are the two main favorites of the race.

As soon as the race passes through the souvenir hunters are out scavenging up the official Strade signs.

Sector 5 is a beautiful rollercoaster of white gravel.

While I move to the end of the next sector I try to listen to some news from the radio. I can’t get clear information but seems that Cannondale has taken the race in control and I think this job is for the Slovakian rider Sagan. The four pass, then Flecha and then the group, led by Cannondale. It will be a nice final with less than 25 km to go.

At the back the race is shaping up as a painful & dusty day on the bike…….

Making the warmth and comfort of the team cars just that bit more inviting.

Hats off to the four out front and especially to IAM’s Aleksej Saramontins who hung onto fifth after being in the break all day.

Last stop is Siena. I have to leave the car out of the route because I come too late, so I have to walk a bit. I walk to the last 2 km till the very steep climb you have in the middle of the ancient town. Via Santa Caterina is the name of this narrow road which on top has a 90° bend to right. I stop there and my legs are burning; the race is already coming and I try to adjust the light as much as possible because it’s a very good place to watch but very bad to spot. Here comes Moser, Moser!

An Italian finally first in this beautiful Italian race. After 6 years of foreigners maybe this will be the time also the locals will start to have some interest in this competition (lot of foreigners on the roadside).

Then the group and Sagan is squeezing out like a snake. Then all the others.

While I walk back to the car I phone to my friend Angelo Giangregorio; we talk about the race and we plan about the Sanremo. Then I meet Ashley; she looks a little bit tired as am I. “See you for Tirreno!” – “Maybe, but see you for Sanremo”. That it is.

That is how these things start again and another season of roads, pictures, Panini, early wakes, friends, trips, bunches, bikes it’s already on. I was waiting for this. Today it’s complete; it’s perfect. It’s done.

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