The 2023 Strade Bianche Race Preview
It is finally that time of the year when cycling gets into the “Pre-Tour” season. One of the more prestigious newer one-day events occurs in Italy's Tuscany region.
Saturday is the 17th running of the professional race Strade Bianche, and expect lots of chaos. Though Tadej Pogacar and some other well-known racers are not here, there are plenty of others present and ready to go.
This race is over a distance of 184 km. Stay calm about early breakaways and such. Rarely does anyone attack super early and win. However, a couple of winners struck from 30-50 kilometres to go and won. See Tadej Pogacar last year, for example.
We look at some potential favorites and try to pick a winner from this field of elite riders to help with your betting on cycling.
The Non-Monument Monument
Let's have a little fun here. The debate in Europe is whether Strade Bianche is a “Monument.” It might not get the designation, but every character of this race says yes. There are all those gravel sections, those punchy kickers, and one of the most beautiful regions to ride a bicycle.
The five official “Monuments” are Milan-San Remo, The Tour Of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, Liege-Bastogne-Liege, and Il Lombardia. Those are events that carry rich, long histories. In a way, Strade Bianche has built its unique history with fans and racers alike. This has come in such a short time.
Mathieu Van Der Poel won this race two years ago. You could hear it in his emotions and words that this meant as much to him as the previous Tour Of Flanders race. Watching cyclists at the peak of their abilities rewrite a race’s ending lends to the allure of Strade Bianche. This is more than just a spectacle. It has popularity and a little of everything.
With an increasing who’s who of cycling elite triumphing, the Italian one day has risen the ranks and is often called “The Sixth Cycling Monument.”
Strade Bianche Race Quick Look
Again, the profile here differs from the Monuments in this way. Strade Bianche has 63 kilometres of unpaved road (sand and gravel) with various difficulties. Just a handful of kilometres in, riders are already going over that unforgiven road. It is a taste of what is to come. Most 11 sectors offer winding roads with enchanting views but terrifying twists and turns.
However, the race gets even more sinister around kilometre 130. That is when the climb up Monte Sante Marie begins. It is 11.5 kilometres and has a few quick drops, which often tests anyone and everyone. Tadej Pogacar launched from here and was only seen again at the finish line in Siena.
More kickers are tossed in, but Le Tolfe features a 1.1-kilometre kick to the solar plexus (18% gradients). It also illustrates how picturesque Strade Bianche is. Passing one of the most beautiful chateaus in Europe still marks 12 kilometres to go. Chasers figure to have a difficult time catching up if attackers are up the road.
Then, the ride backs up into Siena to the finish line. That last kilometre feels almost vertical for the riders. It is a brute which 15-20% ascents at times. Any winner of this race will truly be tested to the fullest.
World Championship Road Race Odds
This race takes a long time to elapse. Think of it as an extremely long romp through the countryside with scenery that takes us back to a simpler time.
The key here is that long shots this year are more worth a look. Quinn Simmons (USA) is at 23.00 and has had some results over the last year. He did win the climber’s classification at Tirreno Adriatico last year and contended on several Tour de France stages. He might be only 21 but do not underestimate his talent on an aggressive course like this.
There are no Canadian riders in this race as Michael Woods opted out.
This is the relative beginning of a very long season. On any given day, a rider can get away or surprise in an unexpected sprint to the line.
The World Championship Men’s Elite Road Race begins at 5:45 a.m. ET on Saturday and will end before lunchtime in North America.
Strade Bianche Predictions
The books want Mathieu van der Poel like the deserts miss the rain. This Dutch cyclist has had one crazy year. It ranged from missing out on several events to winning two Cyclocross trophies. Which van der Poel do we get on Saturday is a great question. Do we get the 2021 winner? It may take about the ¾ mark of the race to find out.
After that, looking at Tim Wellens or Tom Pidcock doesn't hurt. Both love punchy courses like this and have the firepower to keep up with van der Poel if he is slightly off-form. Again, our idea is to take van der Poel as long as he is plus money (2.50). If he drops much more, then pivot to Quinn Simmons and Pidcock.
Get ready for the unexpected, and follow us on Twitter for live updates.
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