Italy's Strade Bianche has quickly become a Classic one-day race, with the hilly dirt roads of Tuscany selecting the strongest and bravest riders before the finale on the steep climb into historic Siena and then the finish in the Piazza del Campo that also hosts the summer Palio horse race.
The 2016 edition of the race again follows a now traditional route, with 176km of racing that includes nine sectors of dirt roads or strade bianche.
Defending championZdenek Stybar (Etixx-Quickstep) will be back in 2016, but will have to face off against an on-form Fabian Cancellara (Trek-Segafredo), world champion Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) and last year's runner-up Greg Van Avermaet (BMC). A total of 18 teams will be in action.
The race begins and ends in Siena, with a 176km loop south mixed with a total of 52.8km off-road.
The dirt roads in detail
The first of the day’s difficulties falls after just 11km with the 2.1km straight gravel sector leading into the day’s first climb, the paved Passo del Rospatoio.
The second gravel section is one of the most iconic of the race, following the town of Murlo. The town of Torrenieri signifies the start of two back-to-back sectors, the first of which runs for 11.9km, with only 1km of tarmac between them. The fifth and sixth sectors are both nearly equally as long, with the latter probably the toughest of the day, gradually climbing to the summit of the hill.
The seventh sector is short at just 800m, but it ramps up punishingly at the end for a sting in the tail. There’s not much respite before the penultimate sector inside the final 20km which sees gradients reaching double figures before levelling off towards the final sector of the day, the rolling 1.1km ninth sector with uphill and descent to navigate. From this point there’s only 12km remaining to the line in Siena, but who will be left at the front of the race?
Sector 1: 2.1km in length
Sector 2: 5.5km in length
Sector 3: 11.9km in length
Sector 4: 8km in length
Sector 5: 9.5km in length
Sector 6: 11.5km in length
Sector 7: 0.8km in length
Sector 8: 2.4km in length
Sector 9: 1.1km in length
Stybar bettered Van Avermaet in 2015
Last year Stybar exploded past Van Avermaet on the Via Santa Caterina in Siena to win by two seconds. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), who was dropped on the final 16 per cent climb, finished third.
The trio had broken away with 20km left and despite numerous attempted attacks, came under the flamme rouge together. Van Avermaet was the first to attack in the finale, with Valverde the first to try and close the gap. However the Spaniard, who had been in every significant move of the race and had used his Movistar team to control the peloton for most of the race, was unable to respond to the final two attacks of the race. While Van Avermaet’s initial move proved decisive in the allocation of podium places, it was Stybar’s stinging acceleration that decided the race.
“In the final kilometres I thought that Valverde would attack but then Greg surprised me and went really early, at the bottom of the steepest part of the final climb," Stybar said. "I got on his wheel but I knew I’d have to overtake him at the top otherwise I’d be second. I wanted to win today and so did everything I could to overtake him and take this beautiful win."
2015 video highlights
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Etixx - Quick-Step||5:22:13|
|2||Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team||0:00:02|
|3||Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team||0:00:18|
|4||Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) Team LottoNL-Jumbo||0:00:46|
|5||Diego Rosa (Ita) Astana Pro Team||0:00:56|
|6||Oscar Gatto (Ita) Androni Giocattoli||0:00:59|
|7||Rigoberto Uran (Col) Etixx - Quick-Step|
|8||Fabio Felline (Ita) Trek Factory Racing||0:01:02|
|9||Przemyslaw Niemiec (Pol) Lampre-Merida||0:01:03|
|10||Giampaolo Caruso (Ita) Team Katusha|