Strade Bianche has quickly become a crowd favourite during its first 12 years on the UCI calendar. Is it the often-muddy conditions on the white gravel roads of Tuscany that draws the fans? Is it the epic finale over the series of gravel climbs leading back to Siena that's responsible for the race's quick ascent in the hearts and imaginations of the cycling public? Or is it the predictably frenetic excitement that only an important one-day race can conjure as the potential winners balance on a thin line of luck, preparation and stubborn resilience?
The 2018 edition of Strade Bianche had all that and more as the inclement weather kicked the drama up several notches. The precipitation caused no shortage of Tuscany's slippery 'white' mud for riders to deal with, and the cold temperatures knocked the fight out of more than a few of the favourites.
In the end, it was Lotto Soudal's Tiesj Benoot who rode alone into Siena's Piazza del Campo to take the 2018 men's race ahead of Romain Bardet and cyclo-cross star Wout Van Aert. Benoot attacked a select group on a climb between gravel sectors 8 and 9, bridged to Bardet and Van Aert up the road, dropped the duo in the last gravel section and then held them off to win what was an especially nasty edition.
In the women's race earlier in the day, Anna van der Breggen took her first win of the season for Boels Dolmans before going on to finish up her spring with wins at the Tour of Flanders, Flèche Wallonne, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the Durango-Durango Emakumeen Saria.
The Dutch rider attacked with 2017 Strade Bianche winner Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle-High5) on the penultimate gravel sector and then rode on unabated when Longo Borghini dropped back due to a mechanical. Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) took up the chase, but it was too little, too late, and the Polish rider finished as runner-up in Siena for the third consecutive time. Longo Borghini rounded out the podium.
With the 2019 race set to roll out of Siena on Saturday for the 13th edition, we've put together a gallery of the 2018 races to whet your appetites. Swipe or click through the gallery above for a glimpse of the 2018 action.