Strade Bianche makes its welcome return to an early-spring slot in the calendar after being shunted back to August in light of the devastating impact of coronavirus on the northern regions of Italy in 2020. The race will mark the opening of the Women’s WorldTour, but also stands as a major milestone for the men’s peloton.
When is the 2021 Strade Bianche?
The first big classic of the season – somebody grant it monument status, already! – will take place on 6 March this year. It represents the first and third stops on the 2021 men’s and women’s WorldTours respectively.
Typically there would be quite a lot more pre-Strade Bianche racing in the early-season to warm up the peloton’s legs, but not this year. Top one-day talents are grabbing any sort of racing they can in a bid to frantically prepare for this whittled-down season.
How to watch the race
Strade Bianche is live on Eurosport. Watch the race live and ad-free on the Eurosport app and eurosport.co.uk. You can download the Eurosport app for iOS and Android now.
Who is riding Strade Bianche?
Who isn’t! Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) is back to defend his crown, plus his nemesis Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin Fenix). Both had punishing cyclocross seasons so may not be at their 100% best, the question is whether they can still pulverise the opposition when running at 75% capacity. Davide Formolo (UAE Team Emirates) was a somewhat surprising second last season and should make his return. Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck - Quick-Step), Jakob Fuglsang (Astana - PremierTech) and Max Schachmann (Bora Hansgrohe) have all also been on the podium in recent years.
'What a ride!' - Wout van Aert soloes to glory in Strade Bianche
Annemiek van Vleuten is also expected to defend her crown but the dynamic of her new team, Movistar, is an unknown quantity. She has won two Strade Bianches on the bounce – can she make it three? The Terrible Trek Twosome, Lizzie Deignan and Elisa Longo Borghini, are also expected to toe the start line, with the Italian more likely to do well based on past performances. The fearsome squad of SD Worx will also be in action – expect Anna van der Breggen and Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio to try and dismantle van Vleuten with repeated one-two punches all the way to Siena. Amanda Spratt could also be a factor, no longer playing second fiddle to van Vleuten as the undisputed leader of Bike Exchange (formerly Mitchelton-Scott).
'A wonderful win!' - Van Vleuten storms to victory at Strade Bianche
What is the route for Strade Bianche?
Both women’s and men’s routes remain unchanged from last year, with the women covering 136km and the men 184km. The final 35 kilometres of both races – including the last three sector of strade bianche (white gravel roads) – are identical.
In 2020, Wout van Aert attacked on the penultimate white road sector, soloing off to a picturesque and formidable win with 20km still remaining. Van Vleuten, on the other hand, waited until the very last gasp – leaving Mavi Garcia in her dust with an excoriating attack on the narrow and winding streets of Siena right before the final.
Who will win Strade Bianche?
Someone with 'van' in their name. Probably.