A week after the Flemish Opening Weekend, true fans of course heroeik really get their money’s worth. If in Tuscan countryside that looks like a postcard a hell ride takes place. To suffer in the mud in pouring rain or to collect dust if the weather gods are kind. Cycling on dirt roads has rapidly become extremely popular. And it is those heroic white dirt roads – strade bianche literally translated – that are inextricably linked to the monument in the making, Strade Bianche. On Cycling-Classics.com is presenting the preview of one of the most lovely cycling classics, the Strade Bianche 2023 with everything about the course, the heroics and the well-known contenders and favorites for Strade Bianche 2023!
Preview Strade Bianche 2023
The distinctive gravel roads the riders thunder over, the picturesque villages the riders pass through, the rolling hills flanked with olive trees and cypress trees. Benvenuti a Toscana! Riding Strade Bianche will be a true experience for any rider. Nothing for nothing that La Classica del Nord più a sud d’Europa has become the image of the immensely popular offroads events and gravel racing an sich. Over 60 kilometers of sterrati, continuous climbing and the masterful and famous grande finale with arrival at the breathtaking Piazza del Campo in medieval Siena. Strade Bianche 2023 promises to be another edition to lick your thumbs and fingers!
When is Strade Bianche 2023?
Edition 2023 of Strade Bianche will take place on Saturday, March 4, 2023. Strade Bianche 2023 is scheduled one week after the Omloop het Nieuwsblad 2023 and Kuurne Brussel Kuurne 2023 and two weeks before Milan Sanremo 2023.
Strade Bianche history
Poggio, Muur van Geraardsbergen, Carrefour de l’Arbre, La Redoute and Madonna del Ghisallo. Ask anyone who is fond of the race and follow the names of the five Monuments. Logically, these iconic passages are inextricably linked to cycling’s most important races. But behind Milan-San Remo, Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Tour of Lombardy, a Sixth Monument looms.
Originating from the Gran Fondo Monte Paschi Eroica – the Monte Paschi bank as the main sponsor, Eroica because of the heroic nature of the race – which saw the light of day in the fall of 1997 and where participants are only allowed to start on a bike older than thirty years including matching clothes from the bygone years. When these brilliant editions proved so successful, the organization decided to organize a professional race over the same white roads. That turned out to be a success…And in a relatively short period of time – the first pro edition took place in 2007 – the Strade Bianche has become one of the most popular races of the year. Both with the tifosi – who have already jokingly named the race The Sixth Monument to Cycling – and with the pros. Who, one by one, indicate that the prestigious race over the grueling Tuscan gravel paths is an important one on their palmares. And just look at the list of winners. Every one of them classics. Apart from a few surprises, we see only leaders and multiple winners on the list of winners.
With Fabian Cancellara, Mister Strade Bianche, as an autocrat with no less than three wins. The Swiss won the second edition (2008), in 2012 and also in 2016 at his last edition. And look at the last winners. With Tadej Pogačar in 2022, Mathieu van der Poel in 2021, Wout van Aert in the summer edition in coronagraph 2020 and Julian Alaphilippe in 2019, the organization has got the full Big Four on its list of honor. But classics specialists such as Tiesj Benoot (2018), Michal Kwiatkowski (2017) and Zdeněk Štybar (2015) and Philippe Gilbert (2011) were also brilliant winners.
A single acceleration followed by an amazing solo of fifty (!) kilometers earned Tadej Pogačar (UAE Emirates) victory in last year’s edition. It thus became the first Tour de France winner to win the Tuscan classic.
Last ten winners
2022: Tadej Pogačar
2021: Mathieu van der Poel
2020: Wout van Aert
2019: Julian Alaphilippe
2018: Tiesj Benoot
2017: Michał Kwiatkowski
2016: Fabian Cancellara
2015: Zdeněk Štybar
2014: Michał Kwiatkowski
2013: Moreno Moser
Strade Bianche 2023 Course
Whereas Paris-Roubaix is world famous for its cobbled sections, Strade Bianche – as we said, literally translated white roads – is all about the gravel sectors. In other words, the settore steratto. Over a third of the “only” 180 kilometers of Strade Bianche 2023 is unpaved, divided into eleven lanes. With about 3,000 altimeters. So get to it. Blubber-riding like in that legendary 2018 edition won by Tiesj Benoot or, on the contrary, huffing dust in the scorching heat, like the summer edition in the corona year 2020 won by Wout van Aert.
‘But it’s not the gravel that makes it so tough. It’s the climbs and the overall height difference.‘ – Former pro Niki Terpstra, who retired last year, was the only Dutch participant in the very first Strade Bianche in 2007.
It should come as no surprise that past editions have been won by the true classics specialists. Indeed, with Pogi, the defending Tour de France champion won last year. Classification rider, climber or classics specialist. The course of the Strade Bianche attracts them all. And with Pogačar, Van der Poel, Van Aert and Alaphilippe as laureates of the past four editions, we have four cyclists in the middle in addition to many-winners. Something that is anything but surprising, since you have to have enough power and energy in the tank, be explosive ánd have the right skills to pilot and steer over the gravel.
“In Flanders and Roubaix you see other riders on the podium than in Liège, in the Strade everything comes together” – Fabian Cancellara rightly says that the classics specialist who wants to win in Tuscany must be all-round and strong.
That the winner of Strade Bianche 2023 must have an explosive final shot in his legs is clear: also in the 2023 edition, the line will be on the Piazza del Campo. This beautiful square in the heart of Siena – which is without a doubt the most beautiful finish location in the peloton – is world famous for its Palio, the biannual horse race that has existed since 1287 where different districts of the city compete against each other. But especially famous and feared in the peloton, because the run-up to it in particular is no mean feat.
At 2 kilometers from the square, on Via Esterna di Fontebranda (average gradient 9%), there is another steep slope and after the leaders pass some typical Italian houses, there is a passage through the medieval city gate and it is going to be tough once more.
Because below the Porta di Fontebranda there is already a steep uphill, on the paved Via Santa Caterina you have to be on your rendezvous and it is really hard work, where some sections go up to 16%. After this wall follow some narrow streets after which the finish and eternal glory awaits you in Piazza del Campo.
Favorites Strade Bianche 2023
It could have been such a great poster. The best one-day riders would be at the rendezvous in Strade Bianche 2023. The entire Top Five would meet for the first time, with picturesque Tuscany as the dream setting.
However, where earlier Tadej Pogačar indicated that the combination of the Strade and Paris-Nice is too ambitious after all, Wout van Aert gave up the day before the race. A disrupted preparation due to illness. He will stay at altitude longer, all for his absolute goals Ronde and Roubaix.
So in the end, “only” three will actually start. For Mathieu van der Piel, Tom Pidcock and Julian Alaphilippe, the Monuments are also a pecking order higher than Strade, but the clappers all travel with only one goal: to add the Sixth Monument to their palmares! Who will be crowned Vincitore della Strade Bianche 2023?
Favorites Strade Bianche 2023 according to Cycling-Classics.com
“I didn’t feel good the past few days here at training camp in Tenerife. Nothing too bad, I already felt better after a few days. But I had to adjust my training and I can’t possibly be at my best in Strade Bianche. Winning is not in the cards at the moment,” the 2020 Strade Bianche winner said.
Van Aert will stay on the Teide longer than planned and is looking forward to the Flemish spring classics. So we won’t get another edition of a direct duel between Wout van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel. Does that make the latter now the man to beat for Strade Bianche 2023?
If it were up to Mathieu van der Poel himself, of course it would. Oh how relieved he must have been after that blistering final at the World Cyclo-cross Championships. Not on the bars, a topic of discussion for days, but on the ascending last line. With a catlike move, he rushed from the wheel of his eternal rival only to be unchallenged. For a moment it would no longer be about his back, but about his world title. And Saturday in Siena? MVDP will literally come from (the altitude simulated in the Syncrosfera hotel) straight to the white roads. Can he repeat his masterpiece of two years ago?
Julian Alaphilippe is perhaps Poeleke’s biggest rival. The French springer managed to win the Strade in 2019 and also seemed on course for another top spot last year, but literally fell away. A year before that, that is, in the 2021 edition won by Van der Poel, Juju was close. On the Via Santa Catarina, the puncheur seemed to have the best cards. Were it not for the fact that Van der Poel gave it such a big pat that it looked like Alaphilippe was riding backwards. Anyway, the rest is history. But let’s be clear. There is still an outstanding bill. The Frenchman of Soudal-Quick Step must have laughed in his fists when news of Pogi and WVA’s forfeit reached him. Revanche in a new man-to-man battle with Mathieu van der Poel is possible. That the form is good, we saw on Saturday in the Faun-Ardèche Classic. Will he succeed?
Tom Pidcock himself said there would be between the Omloop and Liege. And amai, in that Omloop, the 23-year-old Brit actually finished fifth right away. ‘Tricky,’ Pidcock said afterwards after the race, when asked how he would describe the Omloop het Nieuwsblad 2023. Could hardly pedal because of the rain and cold. Or could he simply not follow Dylan the Locomotive? Saturday the cards are shuffled differently, because then we will be climbing hard. And last year’s cyclo-cross world champion is the kind of rider you appoint for this vicious work. Up, down, gravel lanes, total chaos. Pushing and drumming. With an explosive punch at the end. This is a course for Tom Pidcock!
Tim Wellens was one of the big men on appointment last weekend. In the Omloop, he was one of the best in the race and Kuurne, he kicked a lot of butter and especially gave the impression of being in rock-solid shape after shaking the tree on Mont Saint-Laurent. So shook off quite a cartouche, without then finally catching that fish. In Pogi’s absence, can the UAE Emirates leader put down a new cabinet piece and take the spoils?
Along with Wellens, Matej Mohorič was one of those other tastemakers of the Opening Weekend. The Slovenian showed he had very strong legs both in the Omloop and also in the early final of Kuurne. And like Wellens, it was twice strong, but twice left empty-handed. Of course, even for the Dropperpost Man, the biggest commitments are not until early April. Paris-Roubaix he would like to add to his palmares. A record that already includes Milan Sanremo. How realistic is the 2023 Strade Bianche scenario?
Then the dark horses. There are quite a few. Think of Kasper Asgreen, who rode rock solid here last year and will be on the bike more motivated than ever, having had to miss the Opening Weekend due to illness. Or Valentin Madouas, who started his cycling season stonily with impressive listings in the Tour of Algarve. Our dark horse for the Strade Bianche behind the big clappers Van der Poel, Alaphilippe, Wellens, Mohorič and Pidcock is Pello Bilbao. The 33-year-old Spaniard from Bahrain – Victorious narrowly missed out on the podium at the UAE Tour and is so self-proclaimedly out for revenge at Strade Bianche 2023. The steep climbs and white know-how suit Bilbao well, as we saw last year when he finished fifth.
Finally. The black and yellow. Jumbo-Visma. The code of the race was cracked, as Jumbo won grand tours as well as in the classics. It went beyond winning. They dominated the Opening Weekend. Saturday 1 and 3. Sunday with 1 and 2. Dylan van Baarle and Christophe Laporte in the Omloop. Tiesj Benoot and Nathan van Hooydonk in Kuurne.
Why man overboard now that Van Aert is not here? A dream team can still be fielded. Think Attila Valter, who rode very strongly in the O Gran Camiño won by Jonas Vingegaard. Don’t look for the Danish Tour winner Saturday, but do look for that leipe Hungarian. Jan Tratnik also kicked some serious butt last weekend. But our super dark horse is Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne winner Tiesj Benoot. Seven months ago, he hadn’t raced. He even doubted the continuation of his cycling career. How different hangs the flurry the day before The Sixth Monument. Where he is even among the shadow favorites Strade Bianche 2023. Allee, write up den Tiesj soon!
Star distribution favorites Strade Bianche 2023 according to Cycling-Classics.com
***** Mathieu van der Poel
*** Julian Alaphilippe
** Tim Wellens
** Matej Mohorič
** Tom Pidcock
Dark horses: Pello Bilbao and Tiesj Benoot