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.
With 25 kilometres remaining, it’s sterrato-time again on a short but brutal sector. A little later the Strade di Colle Pinzuto appears. The penultimate gravel 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 back to Siena. Last year, Chantal van den Broek-Blaak attacked from a select group with 8 kilometres to go and Elisa Longo Borghini jumped to her wheel. The two entered Siena together before the Dutch rider left the Italian behind inside the last 550 metres.
The finale in Siena is something special. 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.
Chantal van den Broek-Blaak succeeded Annemiek van Vleuten, who is the only rider to win the Strade Bianche twice (2020, 2019). Other former winners are Anna van der Breggen (2018), Elisa Longo Borghini (2017), Lizzie Deignan (2016, then Armitstead), and Megan Guarnier (2015).
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