Monte Paschi Eroica debuts

The first edition of the Monte Paschi Eroica is set to run tomorrow in the area of Siena, Italy. The 180-kilometre race, 60 on sterrati ('gravel roads'), will start in Gaiole and end in Siena's Piazza del Campo.

Participants scheduled to ride the event include World Champion Paolo Bettini, Filippo Pozzato, Alessandro Ballan, Gilberto Simoni, Riccardo Riccò, Stefano Garzelli, Danilo Napolitano, Alessandro Petacchi, Alessandro Bertolini, Enrico Gasparotto, Alexandr Kolobnev and Luxembourg brothers Andy and Fränk Schleck. In fact, yesterday, Simoni took part in the 11th edition of cyclo-tourist event along with 2250 other riders that included Riccò, Andrea Tafi and Davide Cassani.

The race takes on similar strade bianche ('white roads') around Siena as the 'fun' ride. On gravel sections that hit 18% gradients riders will likely mount 39x25 gearing, which will allow them to spin up the climbs without overpowering and losing traction. Organizer RCS Sport has compared the demanding event to Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix.

"They have compared it to Roubaix and Flanders but I believe that it will be a course different from all others and very beautiful," said Pozzato to La Gazzetta dello Sport. Earlier this year he conquered the hellingens of the Omloop Het Volk, and he hopes to apply his form from the World Championships to the hills around Siena. "The sterrato is not pavé. In addition, here there are climbs with sections that have notable gradients. I hope that they are not very long.

"My condition is the same as from the Worlds, so I am aiming to do well," 'Pippo' continued. He finished 51st after being a protagonist in the Worlds' final two circuits.

King of Flanders, Alessandro Ballan, is coming off an amazing season that includes three wins in three significant races: Three Days of De Panne overall, Ronde van Vlaanderen and Cyclassics Hamburg. He wants to add his name in the first slot that is set to become a long honour roll, but he is wary of his knee after crashing over the weekend.

"At [Memorial] Cimurri I crashed and I hit a spot on my left knee that I had injured in the Tour of Benelux [Eneco Tour - ed.]," noted Ballan. "However, it does not seem too serious. It is the first edition of the Eroica and I would like to open the honour roll in this race, which is able to become a Classic."

Petacchi, who had two stage wins in the Vuelta a España last month, will seek to save himself over the hellish roads to sprint like the horses do bi-annually in the Palio di Siena races. If it comes down to a gallop he will not have to worry about Daniele Bennati, who announced yesterday the end of his season due to a microfracture in his right wrist.

For more details on the race read First Monte Paschi Eroica presented.

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