Strade Bianche will include two additional sections of dirt road when it makes its WorldTour debut in 2017. The routes of the men's and women's races were unveiled by RCS Sport on Wednesday, along with the course for the Grand Fondo Strade Bianche by Trek.
The men's race, which takes place on Saturday, March 4, will be 175 kilometres in length and will include 11 sections of dirt road totalling 61.9 kilometres. The 2016 edition of the race featured 52.8 kilometres of dirt road spread across 9 sectors.
The race once again begins and ends in Siena, with the traditional grand finale on the Piazza del Campo after a short, steep climb into the heart of the Tuscan city. Sector 8 of dirt road, the 11.5-kilometre stretch at Monte Sante Marie, has been renamed in honour of Fabian Cancellara, who claimed a record third victory in Strade Bianche during his final season in 2016.
The first sector of gravel road comes after just 11 kilometres, while the day’s first climb, the Bagnaia, arrives during the second sector. After further, flatter stretches of dirt road at Radi and Buonconvento, Strade Bianche tackles its second climb at Montalcino after 57.2 kilometres.
Two long and punchy sectors of gravel roads follow, with just one kilometre of tarmac separating segments of 11.9 and 8 kilometres, respectively. Another stretch shortly after the 100-kilometre mark will weary the legs still further, while the endgame begins in earnest at sector 8, now named for Cancellara and described by RCS as the hardest in the race due to the presence of the Monte Sante Marie climb.
The final 25 kilometres of the race feature three shorter but potentially decisive gravel sections, the last of which brings the riders up the 18% gradients of the climb of Le Tolfe with 12 kilometres to go.
As ever, the picturesque entry to Siena should provide a dramatic denouement. The race passes beneath the Fontebranda Gate to enter the city and will tackle the 16% slopes of the Via Santa Caterina, before swooping into the finish on the Piazza del Campo, where positioning is so important in the event of a sprint.
Strade Bianche heralds a busy period on RCS Sport's calendar, with Tirreno-Adriatico and Milan-San Remo to come in the two weeks that follow. Held in October on its inaugural running in 2007, Strade Bianche quickly established itself as a fixture on the first weekend of March, and race director Mauro Vegni pointed to the addition of a women's race and the elevation of the men's race to WorldTour status as signs of its robust health.
"This weekend in Terre di Siena is now a traditional event in the international cycling calendar. The good work done in recent years by the Municipal Administration and all the other institutions involved, has produced its fruits," Vegni said. "The best athletes will be at the start of the one-day races: the women's race, now in its third edition, and the men's race - part of the WorldTour calendar from 2017."
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