This year's Strade Bianche races were dry, dusty and fast compared to last year’s cold, wet and muddy battles for survival. Equipment choices based on the need for comfort but also lightweight for the many climbs and for racing speed.
Pure aero bikes were deemed too rigid and perhaps lacked the handling finesse needed for the twisting and turning Tuscan farm tracks. Instead, riders opted for more traditional-looking road bikes fitted with 26mm or 28mm tyres and varying rim depths based on personal choices between better performance, comfort and a low risk of punctures. Most men still preferred tubular tyres, but Cyclingnews spotted the women’s Canyon-SRAM team using Schwalbe 1 Pro tubeless tyres on their race bikes.
Men’s winner Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) used his custom-coloured Specialized disc-brake Tarmac that Cyclingnews spotted and photographed at the Vuelta a San Juan in February. He raced on Specialized’s 26mm S-Works Turbo Gripton tyres, which have a varying dotted tread pattern.
Annemiek can Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott) used a semi-aero Scott Foil fitted with caliper brakes to time trial away from her rivals and win the women’s race. Rival and current world champion Anna van der Breggen (Boels Dolmans) had a multi-coloured Specialized S-Works Tarmac, fitted with SRAM's new RED eTap AXS 12-speed groupset. The rainbow colours were drip painted, making for a very standout colour scheme.
Tyre choice and pressure were a vital piece of each team’s tech strategy, to ensure sufficient grip, to help soften the ride on the dirt roads while keep rolling resistance low.
Greg Van Avermaet wore these oversized Oakley Sutro sunglasses (Stephen Farrand)
Cyclingnews saw a Deceuninck-QuickStep mechanic carefully checking pressure before the men’s race. He revealed that riders had 7 bar in both front and rear tyres, with Alaphilippe getting a little lower at 6.9 bar because he weighs less than Zdenek Stybar and the other cobbled Classics riders. The Frenchman confirmed he did not suffer any punctures during the race.
Team Sunweb opted for a slightly wider 28mm Continental Competition ProLtd tubulars, CCC-Liv used Vittoria Corsa 25mm tyres, while UAE Team Emirates opted for the 28mm Vittoria Corsa, which has an herringbone edge to offer more grip. Astana use Corima wheels, which appeared to be fitted with unmarked 26mm Dugast tyres for Strade Bianche.
The warm weather allowed for short sleeves and even skin suits instead of the thermal clothing of 2018. Greg van Avermaet was wearing some new urban style Oakley Sutro glasses for the bright Tuscan sun. They seem to emulate the over-sized Scott Sport Shields preferred by Adam and Simon Yates.
Lachlan Morton's got a new pair of shoes (Stephen Farrand)
Lachlan Morton (EF Education First) raced in what appears to be an updated and perhaps final version of Rapha’s new still-to-be-revealed road shoes. Morton raced in white shoes with long laces at the Tour Down Under, but these pink shoes appear to have the wide heel Rapha have hinted at, the comfort and lightweight of a drawn-together lace system and a strap to tighten the shoe around the shoe-plate area.
All the bikes were spotlessly clean and well-oiled before the start in Siena, but a few hours later the dust of the 'strade bianche' had covered every millimetre of the bikes, sparking the need for careful cleaning post-race.
The dust combined with any drop of oil to create a kind of limestone paste that clung to the chain, gears, cogs and chainrings just as it stuck to the riders sweaty faces. The only dust-free point was where riders’ legs and arms rubbed against the bikes.
Click or swipe through the gallery above for a closer look at the bikes and gear for the 2019 Strade Bianche races.