It does not take long for the first unpaved road to appear. It’s a gentle, flat opener of 2.1 kilometres long before sector 2 is something else. This ‘sterrato’ is 5.8 kilometres long, while also featuring the first double digit ramps of the day.
The route then descends onto a sector with no significant gradients, which is followed by another unremarkable sector before the riders return to smooth and flat asphalt.
The hardest unpaved road of the day appears after 67.5 kilometres. It is also the longest, but that’s not the reason. The 9.5 kilometres sector serves continuous ups and downs in the first part – predominantly up – before a twisting climb is emblematic of the second part.
The riders meet the tarmac again in Asciano and continue on the longest paved section of the route – 34 kilometres, but with hardly a metre on the flat. Last year, Marvi García left the decimated peloton to go solo in this phase of the race.
With 25 kilometres remaining, it is back to the sterrati again on a short but brutal gravel sector. A little later the Strade di Colle Pinzuto appears. The penultimate dust road is 2.4 kilometres long and following a 15% ramp near the base the sector continues to climb gradually until the end.
At a little over 1 kilometre, the last gravel sector opens with a tricky downhill to continue onto a very punchy climb with ramps up 18%. When reaching the tarmac again in the village of Le Tolfe there are 12 kilometres left to race.
Twisting and undulating roads run to a demanding finale. Last year, Annemiek van Vleuten returned out of nowhere to rejoin Mavi García inside the last 7 kilometres. She left the Spanish attacker behind when the gradients started to increase on the steep climb into the old town of Siena.
Coming off a descent the road rises false flat towards the Fontebranda Gate. The riders pass beneath it with only 900 metres to go. The road continues on paving slabs and the gradient exceeds 10% and even peaks out at 16% just before the climb flattens out.
The last 300 metres are downhill and 70 metres before the finish the route enters the Piazza del Campo.
Annemiek van Vleuten is the only rider to win the Strade Bianche twice (2020, 2019). Former winners are Anna van der Breggen (2018), Elisa Longo Borghini (2017), Lizzie Deignan (2016, then Armitstead), and Megan Guarnier (2015).
Another interesting read: results Strade Bianche Donne 2021.
Strade Bianche 2021 for women: route, profiles, more
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