Strade Bianche – the epic white roads
Strade Bianche – the legendary gravel roads of Tuscany have achieved absolute cult status. Whether the Gran Fondo Strade Bianche is actually a gravel race or the decisions about the race outcome is made on tarmac, VOTEC ENDEAVOR PROJECT racer Thorben could make a very special experience. It is clear that this race does not have to hide behind hyped American events such as Unbound or the Belgian Waffle Race.
These roads are a dream for those who are in love with all-road and want to alternate between road and gravel sectors in a picturesque setting.
The Gran Fondo Strade Bianche invites over 6,500 riders to take on 140km of challenging gravel over 2,500 meters of elevation and arrives on the legendary Piazza de Campo in Siena.
This very event seemed perfect for my personal goals of putting the VRC through its paces and chasing it around Tuscany for a duration of 3:56h.
The atmosphere on site is simply magical and the Italians know how to live and love cycling – beautiful bikes and fit athletes as far as you can see. And now I’m suddenly in the middle of it with Moritz, a photographer friend.
Our accommodation is a small property, which is lovingly managed by Bruna completely self-sufficient. Local vegetables from neighboring farmers and friends, a refreshing and cooling river from which the water is also sourced and another two guests who feel comfortable here welcome us warmly. The perfect scenery to tackle the white roads.
The first two days before the event we test different tires and tire pressures. Just under 4 bar at my 79kg it should be. A perfect compromise to lead the Continental 5000 in 32er width over these gravel roads and to be able to roll well on the larger roads. The handling is super and the traction excellent.
In addition to the tires, good driving technique is required here. The white roads are partly very washed out from the previous rains and let you shake through without you can see it beforehand. So hold on to the handlebars, stabilize your body and balance the bike.
Due to the smooth running of the VRC I succeed very well and after a hectic start (starting position 2820 of 6500) I find myself in the leading group after 20 minutes on race day. The first gravel sector is reminiscent of Paris Roubaix and you can hear infernal noises everywhere. A lot of riders stand aside the road with material defects.
I’m lucky and ride with a broad chest and a lot of power over the Strade Bianche until I get involved in a crash after 30km . Unfortunately, another rider has rammed me so that I go down and have to put my chain on again to continue.
At full throttle I chase the leading group and pick up a few well-trained Italians around me, only to find out that I have to do all the work to get back to the front.
But that’s what I started for and I can break away from the group in the next sector and since then I’ve been riding in pairs with a very strong competitor from Team Colpack Ballan, an Italian junior team. Together we motivate ourselves and whip us over the sectors. A sector in the middle part with a total length of 10km demands everything from us – up to 18% steep ramps on loose ground.
The route is a constant rollercoaster, flat passages are rather the exception and one is mentally challenged, which is fun, but also exhausting. The last kilometers into Siena I manage to break away once again and even get a support mpotorcycle provided by the organizer what leads me through the streets. Flying past the enthusiastic spectators who cheer along the route: what a mad atmosphere here.
In the end i finished on place 19. From almost 6500 participants this a great result, marking out that without crashing I would have had the chance to makie it into the Top5. The bike has kept what it promises: the perfect balance of speed, comfort and smoothness on the epic roads with tougher gravel as well as on well paved roads.
Arriving in Siena at the marketplace, I look around and am just happy to be here. This is all-road as it is written in the book. This is adventure, which is what these bikes are built for. These are the moments that I will carry in my heart forever.
Foto Credits: Moritz Sauer
Text: Thorben Haushahn