A recently new cylcing race which has gained a lot of fame in the last years. We wanted to ride the course, but from Belgium it’s not that evident. By car it’s far for a single race and by plane it becomes quickly expensive. Integrating this in our Covid-19 bike road trip was just perfect!
We decided to ride the official ladies track of the 2020 edition. 139 km long, approximatly 30 km of white dirt roads and an altitude of + 2000 meters. With our condition we should be able to manage this. As we had no clue what to expect, where we would end up, and nothing usable could be found on the internet, we prepared ourselves well. We both exceptionaly took our backback with camelbag and 6 extra innter tires + air bombs. That on top of the ones we have with us by default. Add some bars and gels on top of that, and we were ready for our journey.
Strava track: Strade Bianche – 139 km – 2288 altitude meters
The start is all about leaving Siena centre and with some nice roads, up & down the first kilometers go quite smooth. Add some nice sunny weather to that, and we felt really strong for the race. The first Strade Bianche is one of 2.1 km and is all flat. It’s a nice start, and is in fact quite easy going. The speed stays high, the heart rate under control and we were getting a little more confident.
Shortly after we got a second and longer segement, about 5 km, where we had our first decent. Now, I can tell you that this is very “special” to go down on race tires (Continental P5000 25mm) on gravel. But it wasn’t too steep and it was a straight line, so good to build more confidence and get the speed up. At the next cross during the segement, we had our first climb. It goes quicly up to 13-14% and bam! We get a feeling of the real deal. Climbing with a racing bike with gradients above 10% are heavy for a person of 84 kilograms. But above that, and on gravel, makes it hard. However, we were in the beginning kilometers, so still all under control.
It continued like this for some more kilometers, till we reached around 69 km and were again close to Siena. There we turned first right and then left. We had a segment of 9.5 km with ups and downs, but plenty of very steep gradients up. This in combination with the temperature reaching 30 degrees made that our powers were evading quite quickly. After this segment, when we reached finally the main road, we realised we were not yet at the finish. It is also at this point that we realised that although we had close to 100 km, with approximately 40 km left, but with more than 1500 altitude meters to come.
We came in a small town and were lucky to find a backery which was about to close but wanted to serve us. An ice-cream, croissant and Coca-Cola were very welcome. After this point, early after noon, our camelbags showed their advantage, as we came in more isolated areas and if we saw some village or shop, they were closed for their siesta! So please take this into account when you go for your own version of the Strade Bianche: make sure you have enough water with you.
After this point, I can be short, the kilometers, heath, dust and altitude meters did their work, it was now about surviving till the end. Some more Strade Bianches followed, mostly with gradients up to 17%. I also felt I had less and less power in my legs, so the steep parts became harder and harder.
When you finally come close to Siena, there is still an extra loop of 12 km with a final segment, first with a steep decent followed with a longer steep part of 16-17% going up. It is here that Wout Van Aert got away in 2020 and started his solo to win the race.
The steep final climb to Siena center is manageable, and was not as hard as I expected. It’s not on a dirt road, so that makes a big difference. Entereing the square was a big relief. Yet another nice experience we achieved together.
Conclusion is that I already had respect for the professional riders, but it only grew massively for all finishers and certainly all winners of this race!
The region is also one of the most beatifull we have ride through.It is such a nice nature over there! If you ever have the chance to ride this race/track, don’t hesitate, but make sure you are well prepared both for gear and condition.