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Good morning, and welcome along for one of the best races of the year. It's a modern classic, with a short history but no shortage of prestige. It's a journey through the rolling hills of Tuscany and, of course, the gravel roads that give the race its name and its iconic identity. It's Strade Bianche, and it's here!

Blue skies greet the riders in Siena. The sign-on ceremony is wrapping up and we're not far away from the start. 

Before we get going, now's the time to have a read of our in-depth race preview.

This is one of the most-loved races on the calendar not just because of the gravel and the spectacular images it creates, and not just because of the stunning finale up into Siena's old town, but because they all combine to make it one of the most open races of the year. Thoroughbred Classics riders compete alongside lightweight Grand Tour climbers, and the parcours - although relatively short at 184 - has a habit of making class float to the top. 

On that note, my colleague Stephen Farrand has a really interesting pre-race story on the type of rider Strade Bianche is attracting, and how the nature of the race might have changed since its inception in 2007. 

Grand Tour stars spoiling Strade Bianche for Classics riders

We're off!

The riders roll out of Siena. A short neutral zone now before the race proper kicks off. 

We're taking you through the men's race here but we also have live coverage of the women's race, which is now into the final 50km. You can join Amy Jones for all the latest on that one

Stephen Farrand is in Siena for Cyclingnews and he's been catching up with some of the race favourites. Here's Tour de France champ Tadej Pogačar, who was seventh last year and is in strong form after winning the recent UAE Tour.

"I feel good. I love this race. It's going to be really fun. It's a different challenge. It's fun, it's different. I'm going to enjoy today," Pogačar said.

"After the UAE Tour we'll see. The shape in the UAE was good so I hope the legs will also be good today."

And there is Pogačar, at the start a little earlier. He said he only arrived in Italy yesterday after staying on in the UAE to enjoy the warm weather. That means no recon, but he's not worried. 

"I have done this race three times and I know how the gravel feels," he said.

SIENA ITALY MARCH 05 Tadej Pogacar of Slovenia and UAE Team Emirates during the team presentation prior to the Eroica 16th Strade Bianche 2022 Mens Elite a 184km one day race from Siena to Siena Piazza del Campo 321m StradeBianche WorldTour on March 05 2022 in Siena Italy Photo by Tim de WaeleGetty Images

(Image credit: Getty Images)

In the early kilometres a breakaway has formed, and there are around seven riders in there. Names to follow shortly.

Here are the riders who have slipped up the road:

Marco Brenner, Leon Heinschke (Team DSM)

Lilian Calmejane (AG2R Citroën Team)

Davide Martinelli (Astana Qazaqstan)

Taco Van Der Hoorn (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert)

Simone Bevilacqua (Eolo-Kometa)

Edoardo Zardini (Drone Hopper-Androni Giocattoli)

The group gets 45 seconds but we have a counter-attack. Bardiani-CSF have missed out...

If you're one of the three Italian second-division teams - who have been invited by RCS Sport - you have to have a presence in the break and it's a surprise Bardiani have allowed a seven-man move to go without them. Samuele Zoccarato has been fired up into no-man's land for them. 

The weather today could play a part. It's not wet, like it was back in 2018 when a mud-caked Tiesj Benoot took the spoils, but it is chilly. 

Cold easterly winds have blown in and continue to blow today, with winds of 20kph set to hit the exposed gravel sectors in the second half of the race. There's also a sort of cross-tailwind in the first half of the race, which could inspire early action.

Onto the Strade Bianche!

The seven leaders hit the first of the 11 sectors of gravel on today's menu. At 2.1km, and slightly downhill, it's a relatively gentle introduction.

Zoccarato has company in the form of Eolo-Kometa's Sergio García. Eolo already have a man in the break but they've cleverly marked this move from the Bardiani rider. But they're still at 45 seconds.

We are without the past two winners, with Mathieu van der Poel still coming back from a back injury and Wout van Aert redesigning his spring schedule, but 2019 winner Julian Alaphilippe is here in the world champion's jersey. 

"I don't know [if I can win]. I know I'm not yet at 100 per cent - that’s for sure - but my condition is good, so I'm going to enjoy it. I hope it's enough to be up there in the finale, but I'm motivated for a race I adore. 

"For sure, it's a shame that they’re not there but the race is going to be very difficult anyway. Riders will want to attack from far and not wait for the final. A lot of riders can win today."

Back on the tarmac and the breakaway have now decided to wait to allow Zoccarato and Garcia to join them. So that makes a nine-man breakaway with a lead of nearly three minutes.

25km done

Onto the second sector now and it starts to get a bit trickier now. 2.5km long and a nasty uphill kick. 

Heinschke punctures on the gravel and is off the back of the lead group.

As they reach the top of that gravel climb, the leaders have taken their advantage out to 5:30.

Heinschke is back in.

The first shots of the breakaway and of the gravel are in

SIENA ITALY MARCH 05 LR Lilian Calmejane of France and AG2R Citren Team and Taco Van Der Hoorn of Netherlands and Team Intermarch Wanty Gobert Matriaux compete in the breakaway during the Eroica 16th Strade Bianche 2022 Mens Elite a 184km one day race from Siena to Siena Piazza del Campo 321m StradeBianche WorldTour on March 05 2022 in Siena Italy Photo by Tim de WaeleGetty Images

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Downhill here and the peloton have upped it, taking a minute out of the breakaway's lead.

37km ridden

Onto the third sector now. 4.4km and rolling. 

Puncture for Gianni Moscon (Astana) but he's back in without any issues.

Plenty of riders in the sick bay. A stomach virus has deprived Tom Pidcock of a shot at the race that suits him so well, while Tom Dumoulin has been ruled out through COVID-19. Peter Sagan is also sick but starts. Full infirmary round-up here.

Just under 40km covered in the first hour of racing.

You love to see it

SIENA ITALY MARCH 05 The peloton passing through a gravel strokes sector during the Eroica 16th Strade Bianche 2022 Mens Elite a 184km one day race from Siena to Siena Piazza del Campo 321m StradeBianche WorldTour on March 05 2022 in Siena Italy Photo by Tim de WaeleGetty Images

(Image credit: Getty Images)

48km ridden

The riders now head onto the fourth sector and the last one in what is sort of an opening quartet. 

The gravel can be divided up into four distinct phases here. These are the introductory sectors, then come two longer sectors towards the half-way point which really start to soften the legs. After that, things really get serious with the long and arduous San Martino in Grania and Monte Sante Marie sectors, and then it's into the finale for the trio of short but steep gravel climbs that should prove decisive.

The peloton is still on high alert. The breakaway are still on a modest leash of 3:45.

5km to go in the women's race and we have a small group heading into Siena. Join Amy Jones for live coverage of the finale.

After the fourth sector the road flattens out but soon starts climbing on the tarmac up to Montalcino. It won't see big action but this will start to sap the legs on a day where the elevation gain will total 3000 metres.

Lotte Kopecky has won the women's race in a thrilling finale. 

Here's our report page for that one

It's relatively calm as the riders make their way up the Montalcino climb. The nine leaders have an advantage of 3:30.

Over the top and we're now heading down the other side. The gap falls to below three minutes. 

QuickStep, Movistar, and UAE are prominent at the head of the peloton.

Here we go then. Onto the fifth sector and so begins the second phase of this race. It's long, at 11.9km, and it's followed almost immediately by the 8km Pieve a Salti sector. 

The peloton has upped the tempo once more on this long sector. The gap falls below two minutes.

The wind is blowing now and it's blowing the race up!!

Crosswinds on this long sector

Huge crash!!

Wow. Riders getting blown fully off the road by this wind. 

Julian Alaphilippe is down

Alaphilippe was in his teammate's wheel when a huge gust came from the right. That took his wheel out and the world champion went flying head over handlebars. 

Crazy scenes here, really. Riders, even having crashed, getting blown straight into the field by the side of the gravel. 

A small group avoided that crash at the front and are away, just behind the breakaway. The race has exploded after that crash, though.

Alaphilippe is back on his bike and is chasing with Mikkel Honore and Mauro Schmid.

Fuglsang is up the road with a teammate in a group of around seven. Alaphilippe is counted at 2 minutes behind that group.

Back onto the tarmac but not enough time for things to settle down. We're straight back onto the next sector of gravel in around a kilometre.

Pogacar is in the group with Fuglsang and Tim Wellens. QuickStep have two riders in there. 

And now a much bigger group is getting across to that select group. That's the bunch now. 

94km to go and we're heading downhill on the sixth sector. The breakaway are 40 seconds ahead of this newly reformed but reduced peloton.

Alaphilippe is still chasing at 1:40.

It's hard to see Alaphilippe getting back in. He's in a much smaller group than the bunch, and only has two teammates. There seem to be plenty of willing parties in the bunch ahead, including Trek, Lotto, and FDJ. 

The replays of the mass crash are extraordinary. Alaphilippe unclips before his teammate goes down in front of him, and then goes flying when he hits the bike. When he lands, having somersaulted, he almost bounces and then pretty much flies left into the field. 

It was a strong wind but they were clearly hit by massive gusts, exactly from the right, on that exposed section. Riders were crashing all over the shop.

Alaphilippe is in a group of 10 and they're picking up dropped riders but they're not getting any closer.

Tiesj Benoot (Jumbo-Visma) has abandoned after the crash. That's a huge blow for the 2018 winner and his team, who are here without 2020 champ Van Aert.

86km to go

The breakaway exit the Pieve a Salti sector. That's six down, five to go. 

They lead the way by 50 seconds over the reduced peloton. 

The 10-man Alaphilippe group is at 2:00.

Things calm down a little in the bunch, but still plenty of teams looking interested here, with Bahrain and Alpecin near the front at the moment.

Alaphilippe is gaining. He's now just 50 seconds in arrears.

The Alaphilippe group has swelled and they're limiting the damage here. It would still be extraordinary if Alaphilippe comes back to compete for victory here.

Victor Campenaerts and Brent Van Moer abandon for Lotto Soudal. Matej Mohoric is out for Bahrain. 

And it's Bahrain who are actually taking command in the bunch with almost all their remaining riders on the front. They have Pello Bilbao and Heinrich Haussler in their ranks.

78km to go

The Alaphilippe group can see the convoy. They're 40 seconds down now and they'll soon be able to use the cars to work their way back to the peloton.

Amid all the action, the breakaway has split. The five riders left out front are Brenner, Calmejane, Van der Hoorn, Heinschke, Zoccarato.

Alaphilippe coming back. They're through the cars and almost in.

Over 20 riders in that group now and they're going to regain contact.

75.5km to go

Alaphilippe back in

That's it. The group stitches itself onto the back of the bunch. The world champion gives a huge pat on the back to his teammate Honore, who buried himself to bring that back.

Valverde was in that Alaphilippe group and Movistar helped to bring it back. 

Pogacar has had a stop after the regrouping but he's being brought back towards the front now.

Time for more gravel. It's sector 7 at San Martino in Grania, and it's 9.6km long and largely uphill. 

71km to go

The breakaway quintet hit it with a lead of a minute.

UAE lead the approach in the bunch.

Lotto take it up as the peloton hits the gravel.

Alaphilippe right up at the front on this sector. Fair play.

Michael Matthews (BikeExchange) and Michael Gogl (Alpecin-Fenix) also abandon.

It's pretty calm on this sector. It's more of a headwind here.

Kasper Asgreen is leading the peloton on this sector.

Heinschke is dropped from the break as Zoccarato forces the issue on the sterrato. Four left standing.

The leaders find a little more ground again. 1:10 is the gap now as the gravel really starts to climb.

Movistar have taken the reins in the bunch for Valverde.

Fancy watching this? Of course you do. Here's how.

62km to go

Off that brutal seventh sector and back onto the tarmac for 10km of gentle downhill roads.

Things absolutely exploded earlier on and it looked for a minute like it could be a day of carnage. But things have regrouped and calmed down, and we're heading for a more traditional finale, although the wind could strike again on this next sector...

We've got some photos of the crash. 

SIENA ITALY MARCH 05 LR Tiesj Benoot of Belgium and Team Jumbo Visma Lewis Askey of United Kingdom and Team Groupama FDJ Tadej Pogacar of Slovenia and UAE Team Emirates Stefano Oldani of Italy and Team AlpecinFenix and Julian Alaphilippe of France and Team QuickStep Alpha Vinyl being involved in a crash during the Eroica 16th Strade Bianche 2022 Mens Elite a 184km one day race from Siena to Siena Piazza del Campo 321m StradeBianche WorldTour on March 05 2022 in Siena Italy Photo by Tim de WaeleGetty Images

(Image credit: Tim de WaeleGetty Images)

It's lighting up again now. This looks like it's going to be a critical sector as teams fight for position and the speed ramps up.

Here we go! Onto the gravel again

The gap to the break plummets to 20 seconds on entry.

53km to go and this is a crucial phase of the race. It's the last long sector (11.5km) before the shorter and punchier final three later on.

Lotto Soudal take it up. They have Wellens who's looking really strong.

52.5km to go

The four remaining breakaway riders are caught. All together. Sort of.

Alaphilippe attacks!

Not a full blown attack but the world champion accelerates and hits the front. Uphill now and the gradient is biting.

Alaphilippe draws up alongside Alaphilippe. It's not full gas yet but the favourites are appearing at the front and plenty of riders are getting spat out the back.

Wellens accelerates!

The Belgian stretches things out as the climb tops out and the roads head downhill.

Uphill drag again now and the wind is blowing from the right.

Alaphilippe attacks!

And now Pogacar goes!!

A more sustained acceleration from the world champion and now the Tour de France champion puts in a dig of his own.

It's a playful attack but it's splitting things up

Simon Clarke, Quinn Simmons are with Pogacar and Alaphilippe. Small split then Wellens is there with a lined out group.