Strade Bianche Gran Fondo 2023: A Weekend Affair - Lucca Cycling Club

Strade Bianche Gran Fondo 2023: A Weekend Affair

AT_Blog_Profile

Ciao! I'm Alison.

If you're planning or dreaming about cycling in Italy, my job is to make it happen for you.

AT_Blog_Profile

Ciao! I'm Alison.

If you're planning or dreaming about cycling in Italy, my job is to make it happen for you.

Imagine crisp spring air, the uncertainty of rain or shine, historic Siena packed to the brim with pros and anything but, and fine white dust that brings peace and meaning only to a cyclist.

The task is to take in the energy and ultimately transcend the noise, emotion, and clanking gears to become one with the beloved strade bianche.

Ever since I heard my name blaring over the Pasta Party’s loudspeakers as the lucky winner of a Kask helmet, my loyalty for the strade bianche has not wavered. I'm a much-improved person thanks to the 2017 edition, which is how my Jakub and I became an item. But the white roads are about you, not me. Let's continue.

Expanding upon the success of L'Eroica, Strade Bianche Eroica Pro put its stake in the ground in 2007, intent on joining the ranks of the most prestigious spring classics: Paris-Roubaix and Tour of Flanders. But no party is much fun without women and a bunch of hooligans, so they added a women’s race and the Fondo too.

So what kinds of joy can Gran Fondo Strade Bianche bring to your life? Well, I promise these unpaved white roads are nowhere near as torturous as riding Belgium’s pave.

Let's review.

Saturday: Spectating the Strade Bianche Pro Race

Opening up the weekend's activities is the pro race offering a front-row seat to the suffering and drama that, of course, isn't your own.

The men and women ride similar courses and, if the weather gods aren't angry, then you'll be off to the races. Now, carefully considering the big race day is on Sunday, it would be foolish to overextend ourselves. And overextend ourselves we shall not do.

Many fans aggregate on Via Santa Caterina — the final climb to the finish in Siena's Piazza del Campo — which may interest you if your weakness isn't large crowds in confined spaces. Otherwise, save Santa Caterina for the Fondo and take a look-see at what splendor awaits in Mother Nature.

In as few as 75 km total, you'll have the opportunity to get up-close and personal with the upper echelon of pro cycling. There's no other sport in the world that gives the fan such intimate power or influence… for free. That's why you've got to be there in flesh and blood because when your favorite rider wins, you win too.

Where are the sidelines with the best viewing? I'm glad you asked.

First tick-box on the itinerary is San Martino in Grania to take in some of the world’s most consistently dominating female cyclists like Annemiek van Vleuten and Marianne Vos.

Women's Strade Bianche Pro
The women's pro field at San Martino in Grania. Photograph: Alison Testroete

After the women pass and since we’re all a bunch of amateurs, let’s embody our status to the fullest and mosey on over to Asciano for lunch. The town of Asciano is dead-center of the Crete Senesi or Tuscany’s timeless lunar landscape. You’ll have enough time for a primo piatto and a gelato before the clock starts ticking.

Next up on the itinerary is Monte Sante Marie: the iconic segment of L’Eroica and the best place to catch the pro men with their entourages. It’s a jaw-dropping section of white roads, and not being part of the Fondo course, Saturday is a perfect day to ride it.

Mens-Pro-Strade-Bianche
You could be that crazy Czech fan (in red) cheering Štybar up Monte Sante Marie. Photograph: Alison Testroete

Now let's talk about Siena: indisputably one of the most beautiful towns in Italy. The Gran Fondo Strade Bianche starts and finishes in this once Etruscan settlement and is typically hijacked by cyclists for the entire weekend. There is no better sports nutrition than Senese specialties: cinghiale (wild boar), Cinta Senese, pappardelle & pici pasta and cantucci biscuits. With possibly even a Sagan sighting, Siena in early March is the epicenter of athletic prowess.

Sunday: The Gran Fondo Strade Bianche

Starting amongst 5000 people — some with aero suits or deep-dish carbon wheels and others with power meters and glossy, “embrocated” legs — might feel a little intense for a gelato-eating, wine-drinking amateur like yourself.

But trust me on this one, if you can tame your emotions for the first 30 km and let frantic cries of “attenzione!”, “destra!”, and “sinistra!” become a stoic practice, you’ll finish in an abundant positive.

Gran-Fondo-Strade-Bianche
One of the final walls near Siena with that crazy Czech fan. Photograph: Sportograf.com

The 139.2 km Gran Fondo Strade Bianche course follows the women’s pro race circuit with 31.4 km of gravel, or the just-as-beautiful Medio Fondo at 86.6 km with 21 km of gravel.

Events like Gran Fondo Strade Bianche and L’Eroica were created to preserve Tuscany’s gravel roads. Significant effort is invested into filling holes and keeping the white roads in tip-top shape, meaning you can easily carry speed over them. A gravel bike is not a must, but good, 25 or 28 mm tires definitely are.

Not all races and events can match the charm and challenge of the Gran Fondo Strade Bianche itself, but by and large the effect is the same: of bringing people together. This Gran Fondo, the town of Siena, and the regions' riding have my highest recommendation. I hope exploring the strade bianche brings you as much joy and fulfillment as it has for me.

Gran Fondo Strade Bianche: Sunday, March 6th, 2022

Lucca Cycling Club has a few extra event registrations available for purchase. The price-per-person is €85 and includes a Sportful jersey, vest and a pass to the classic Italian post-race Pasta Party. The best airport for Siena is Florence Amerigo Vespucci Airport (80 km) or Pisa Galileo Galilei Airport (120 km).

Be one of the first 5 people to register and get the following bonuses... for free!

  • Suggested itinerary with hotel and restaurant recommendations
  • Saturday's routing with race timing to watch the pro men and women at key locations (as described above)
  • Two suggested routes from Siena, complete with coffee stops and what to see along the way
  • Responsive email support — if anything comes up, we have your back

Write [email protected] for your place on the start line. Offer available until sold out.

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- Lucca CC Insider

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