Le strade bianche of Siena that have become popular amongst cycling enthusiasts will now play host to the top pros. The Monte Paschi Eroica, presented yesterday in Milano by RCS Sport, will be the first time for professionals to race over the white gravel roads. The 180 kilometre race it is held on October 9.
The race, starting in Gaiole in Chianti and ending in Siena, will include seven sectors, 70 kilometres of 'sterrati' ('gravel roads') inspired by races like Paris-Roubaix and the Ronde van Vlaanderen.
"Cycling needed something new and the riders need a motivation," explained Angelo Zomegnan, events director of RCS Sport, to La Gazzetta dello Sport during the presentation. "This race is unique, and is special."
There will be an expected 2000 cycling enthusiasts to take part in the eleventh edition of the amateur event two days prior to the professional race. "In the amateur event there exists a spirit, a brotherhood, that modern cycling is losing. The Monte Paschi Eroica [pro race] will be a way to refind the rays of the past..."
RCS Sport has already confirmed modern champions like Danilo Di Luca, Het Volk winner Filippo Pozzato, Daniele Bennati, Flanders champion Alessandro Ballan and 2006 Roubaix king Fabian Cancellara. The organizers hope to secure the participation of World Champion Paolo Bettini and two-time Flanders winner Tom Boonen in the coming weeks.
Bennati was invited to take part in a special reconnaissance. "When they invited me to take part in this inspection I replied with enthusiasm," said Bennati, who lives in nearby Arezzo. "These roads are used often when I train, even if I don't cover le strade bianche.
"It was a sensation of turning back in time. I did not think that there still existed paths like these, where you only see a tractor every now and then," Bennati continued after his reconnaissance. "During the test I covered all seven sectors, and I can say that the last one contains points of 18%. You have to use a 39x25, and you can't rise out of the saddle."
The race will finish in the medieval Piazza del Campo, home of the famous horse races. "It will be an important race that could become an important Classic. ... I can already imagine the atmosphere of the arrival in the Piazza del Palio."