Although history is still relatively young with an inaugural edition held in 2007, Strade Bianche quickly has become one of the most prestigious one-day races outside of the five Monuments. One third of the route is played out on unpaved roads, often uphill at dizzying gradients. Which attracts a mix of climbers and classics specialists, making the race an important aim for a variety of riders from a broad church.
While the Strade Bianche is famous for its dirt roads, the finale in Siena is an attraction in its own right. The steep climb on paving slabs peaks out at 16%. On this section, title holder Wout van Aert came to a standstill and fell of his bike in his first appearance in 2018 after he cramped up.
Given the surface, it is no wonder that (former) cyclocross cyclists feel at ease in Strade Bianche. Notably Van Aert. With this triumph in 2020 the Flemish rider completed a Strade Bianche podium hattrick. Another exceptional cyclocross talent, Mathieu van der Poel, also aims to put his cyclocross skills to good use on the gravel pitches.
Last year’s race was held in August instead of March, meaning it was a very hot edition with temperatures soaring at over 40 degrees Celsius. Wout van Aert attacked on the last unpaved climb – to El Tolfe – in an elite group with Jakob Fugslang, Alberto Bettiol, Davide Formolo and Max Schachmann. He entered the Piazza del Campo in Siena 30 seconds ahead of Formolo with Schachmann 2 seconds further behind.
Michal Kwiatkowski is the only active rider who won the Strade Bianche twice – in 2014 en 2017. More recently, Wout van Aert (2020), Julian Alaphilippe (2019) and Tiesj Benoot (2018) took the spoils, while Zdenek Stybar (2015) and Philippe Gilbert (2011) were also successful on the white roads of Tuscany.
Kwiatkowski, Stybar, Alaphilippe and Van Aert are the only former winners at the start this year.
Favourites 2021 Strade Bianche
*** Wout van Aert, Julian Alaphilippe, Mathieu van der Poel
** Alberto Bettiol, Jakob Fuglsang, Davide Formolo, Michal Kwiatkowski
* Romain Bardet, Tadej Pogacar, Pavel Sivakov, Bauke Mollema, Tom Pidcock