Tuscany is known for its fine wine, rolling hills and beautiful architecture. If you’re a cyclist, chances are you’ll also know it's famous for its white gravel and chalk roads that make up the parcours for Strade Bianche, a one day 176km race that starts from Siena before looping out to the countryside, then back into the historic town centre with a finish on the brutal Piazza del Campo, a steep roughly surfaced climb.
This year marked the 10th anniversary of the race, which first started in 2007. Last year was a great tussle between Cancellara and two Etixx-Quickstep riders, Štybar and Brambilla, with Spartacus sealing his victory on the Piazza del Campo climb for the third time in his career.
Every year amateurs have a chance to ride the same route as the pro peloton on the day following the race. We travelled out to Tuscany for a few days to take in the main race and test out our wheels on the famous gravel tracks, all 50km that feature on the route.
The pro race saw a decisive early attack from Mikal Kwiatkowski of Team Sky, who attacked with a few km to go and took a great solo victory. We caught the race with the rest of the tifosi in Siena’s centre, getting a grandstand view of the action:
The amateur ride on the Sunday proved to be a damp affair, with rain falling on and off throughout the day, turning the gravel roads into mud. Our bikes took a pasting, but made it through unscaved. We used 28 tyres that are designed to cope well on the Tuscan roads. After long hours in the saddle we made it back to Siena, celebrating in the evening with a typical dish of Fiorentina steaks and glass of chianti. It's a must-do an event on the granfondo bucket list.