What's Cool In Road Cycling

Roadside PEZ: Strade Bianche 2012

Roadside Report: In only its sixth edition, the Strade Bianche has captured the hearts of the PEZ-Crew – and cycling fans everywhere – with it’s ruggedly beautiful corsa in the Tuscan hills around Siena, and the sectors of white dirt roads that lead us back to long forgotten era. Our Ale Federico was there…

It’s early morning when I arrive in Tuscany. The Crete area of the lonely trees and white roads. The air is chilly, it’s 2°C but the sun is coming out and it will be a nice sunny day of this early spring. The morning fog waits for me and gives the opportunity of a special spot which is also my first tweet of the day. Since the time that Pez has introduced the social media to the readers I was awaiting this moment!

The fog in the early morning on a white road sector out of the race.

I arrive in Gaiole quite early and I have my breakfast. A fast look at the Gazzetta and then to the credits bus to get the passes for me and the car. Meanwhile the teams’ motorhomes are coming and I decide to try to wait for some riders. I stop in front of the Farnese team headquarters and my friend Caccia recognizes me.

Diego Caccia from Farnese fixing his reminder for the white sectors.

He comes down and fixes to the bike a reminder for the main gravel road sectors. He is one of the few riders down and several fans are stopping him. One fan remember even one of his victories when he was under 23. Not bad! It’s time to go, also if the “bigs” are still on the buses.

The break on Sector 1.

The day’s plan is to see as much as possible and try to see the race in several white road sectors. In the last year I’ve already done sectors 1-4-5-6 so this year I have to spot on number 3… but I also don’t want miss one. There are 8 white segments total and the last 2 are definitively decisive.

The break in the Tuscany landscape.

When I arrive on sector number 1 the sun is high and the temperature is very comfortable. I keep updated with twitter and sometimes I tweet something waiting for the race. Not long to wait the race comes and already 18 people are breaking ahead. The peloton is just one minute far but this race already demonstrated how it is easy for the break to maintain the gap. The reason is easy to understand: riding out of the bunch is much easier. Especially today that the sun has dried the roads and a cloud of dust surrounds the bunch.

Locals waiting on the race.

The break on Sector 3.

While I move to the sector 3 I decide to wait the race after the sector 2: it’s little bit a risk but the landscape is beautiful and I can’t miss the opportunity. The number 3 is not really difficult but is very long and the road is not paved really well everywhere. There’s already people waiting for the race and several people is just there with no idea of the “cast” riding today but enjoy the sun and the show this race gives.

The bunch on lonely Sector 3.


The break is still ahead but they’re going to be caught by the main pack: team Movistar is working hard. The dust surrounding the last riders, in pursuit behind the team cars is really a hell. And I can see already the first defeats.

The next sector is the number 5 which is the hardest. From Asciano to Torre a Castello there are more than 10 km of twists and hills and descents. The break is caught at the beginning of the terrible uphill to Monte Sante Marie and the bunch is already selected. I can recognize several riders but I’m surprised by Gilbert who seems to be in difficulty.

A piece of heaven.

I move fast to the sector 6 but I take the opportunity to watch the landscape. Lonely houses made of stones, hills, lonely roads. Seems the heaven of the rides. When I come just out of the sector 6 the photographers are already coming. They are so dirty that is difficult to recognize them!

Dust coats the photographer, Sirotti.

Bennati solo.

The race is in the final part and there’s Bennati, alone in attack. This race has been never won by an Italian. It would be good for Bennati, who’s a local, to win here. The turn just out of sector 6 is quite dangerous and it’s funny to see how riders are screaming each other preparing the final short to the turn. Bennati alone, than a small group chasing with Cancellara and later on the bunch with Gilbert. I immediately understand that Gilbert is out: the gap is too wide and the roads coming now are not good for a bunch pursuit.

Vansummeren leads the chasers.

Cancellara bides his time.

I would like to spot on sector 8, which is very difficult with short steep hills but I decide to not risk. I head to Siena and to the final kilometer where I can find the last pearl of this very special race. From 1 to go to 350 meters to go the road takes off once more in the narrow roads of the old town. Cancellara is alone but will be difficult for him this last effort.

Cancellara moments from victory on the Santa Caterina climb into Siena.

However the gap is big and he really controls well the pace on the climb to Santa Caterina road. The people are screaming and the helicopter roves over the scene. Cancellara, after his 2008 win is again the first in Siena and this is quite a wake up call for all the others. In 2008, after Strade Bianche he also won Tirreno and also…. Sanremo. Bad news for Gilbert who’s quite late. Good Ballan and Iglinsky.

St. Caterina climb.

It’s time to come back home and while I quietly walk to the car, watching the pictures of the day on the camera, Caccia rides in a gruppetto. “Hey Diego!” – I scream. He’s climbing and replies just showing out the tongue to me and pass away. But then he turns “Ale, who won?” – “Cancellara” – I reply. Some people assists to this and laugh. He’s already gone when I think I had to say that his teammate Gatto was third. Damn. I just think that, maybe, knowing it, Santa Caterina climb would be little bit easier to him!

The Porta Fontebranda passage of a late gruppetto with Caccia inside.

The day is over. It’a a very special race, with a special route. The people on the road are few and this is the only bad thing I can say of this event. But this is also just the sixth edition: and is already considered a semi-classic. “Bigs” like Cancellara comes here to make the race and not just to prepare for the north classics or the Sanremo. The season has started also for me and I can’t wait already for the next events. Tirreno and Sanremo are in front of us.

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