What is this race and why should I care about it?
Strade Bianche is a unique race in the professional calendar that has earned a place in the hearts of cycling fans despite its relatively short existence. While amateurs are often found aping their heroes, the first Italian race of the WorldTour season in fact reverses the paradigm.
Taking its lead from the huge popularity of Eroica, the non-competitive amateur event that traverses the chalky white roads of Tuscany and requires riders to complete the event on retro steel bicycles, RCS Sport, organisers of the Giro d'Italia, launched Strade Bianche in 2007 — then called Monte Paschi Eroica — when Alexandr Kolobnev prevailed.
Swiss classics specialist Fabian Cancellara won the first of the three Strade Bianche titles he claimed — he remains the most successful rider on the white roads — the following year in 2008. Unsurprisingly, the race has become a particular favourite with the classics riders, particularly since its move to the earlier part of the calendar from its original October slot — other than last year's event that was switched to August as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Previous winners include Philippe Gilbert, Michal Kwiatkowski, Zdenek Stybar, Julian Alaphilippe and Wout van Aert, while Moreno Moser remains the sole Italian to have won the race.
Strade Bianche earned itself WorldTour status in 2016. The seventh edition of the women's edition takes place on the same day as the men's race and in 2021 and acts as the curtain-raiser to the Women's WorldTour.
When is Strade Bianche?
The men's race gets under way at 11.45am (10.45am GMT) on Saturday March 6, 2021. The women's race starts at 9.15am (8.15am GMT).
How long is this year's race?
Strade Bianche is just 184 kilometres long, the women's race is 136km.
What routes do the races follow?
Both races set off from Siena and follow a circuitous route, in an anti-clockwise direction, heading south towards Buonconvento at which point the routes diverge. Once the riders reach the most southerly points of the day, they change direction and head back north towards Siena.
While the route for the women's race looks like this which is, essentially, the same as the men's but without the loop south of Buonconvento . . .
And what do the profiles look like?
This is the men's race . . .
. . . and here's the women's . . .
How much of each race is on strade bianche?
There are 11 sectors in the men's race, covering 63km in total — 34.2% of the course — while the women's features eight (31.4km, 23.1% of course).
How long is each sector and where are they?
After setting out from Siena, the riders will be treated to 11km of smooth asphalt before reaching the race's first sector of gravel which is relatively benign at just over 2.1km long. This dead straight road which is slightly downhill should not test the riders too much, but will give the debutants at this race their first taste of the white roads in racing conditions.
Following a brief return to the asphalt, a slightly tougher stretch of gravel awaits the peloton. At just below 6km — 5.8km, to be precise — section two will provide the riders their first challenge as the road ramps up towards Ville di Corsano at gradients that go above 10 per cent.
Two further sections follow at 36.9.km and 47.6km respectively, clocking in at 4.4km (section three) and section four that is named La Piana (5.5km long). Neither feature any climbs that appear too tricky, but will play their part in softening up anybody that has not brought their best legs to the party as the race heads towards Buonconvento for the first time.
The second climb of the day, the Montalcino — 4km long at five per cent average gradient — precedes section five which is 11.9km in length. A short 1,000-metre stretch of asphalt punctuates the course, before section six which is slightly shorter at 8km. Both are relatively tough, though neither are expected to cause too many issues for the key riders.
By this point in the race, it is widely expected that if they have not already done so the main protagonists will start to position themselves in preparation for what follows beyond the feed zone in Ponte d’Arbia at the 102.6km mark having passed through Buonconvento for the second time.
Section seven, which begins in San Martino in Grania and is 9.5km in length is where the race, traditionally, starts to take shape. With numerous little kickers there are plenty of opportunities for those feeling strong to press hard and apply the pressure. Towards the end of the long stretch of gravel there is a twisty climb before a descent, on asphalt, towards section eight. Positioning here may be key, and while amateurs would take advantage of the smooth surface and freewheel for a couple of kilometres, the stronger riders will do nothing of the kind. Similarly to Paris-Roubaix, attacks often follow immediately after gravel sections.
Next up is the most famous, and feared, section of the race. With 130km of racing in the legs, section eight which is 11.5km begins in Ponte del Garbo before heading towards Monte Sante Marie. It may look beguiling in photographs and on television, but trust me this rolling stretch of road is really hard to ride. With numerous short and steep climbs — and descents — this is widely regarded as the hardest gravel section of the race.
The following 20km may all be on asphalt, but the road undulates, just as riders’ ambitions may do as their exertions start to take their toll. There’s a further 300 metres of gravel, though not long or decisive enough to be considered an official ‘section’. Next up is a horrible 800-metre stretch — section nine — that will feel like riding up a wall as the road’s gradient goes well into double digits. With just 24km of the race remaining, the selection will either have been made, or is very much in the post.
Final 20km of the men's race
The penultimate sector of gravel — section 10 — may only be 2.4km long, but the Colle Pinzuto climb tops out at 15 per cent in gradient, before the final gravel section of the day follows a few kilometres later. Again, it is a short one but section 11 features a vicious climb at 18 per cent. That’s going to hurt, but the race is far from over yet.
So, what does the finale of the race look like?
With 12km remaining, those still in with a chance of winning Strade Bianche will have to keep their cool. Numerous short climbs pepper the run-in back towards Siena before they arrive at the old walled city.
Final 3km of the route
On entering the city beneath the Fontebranda Gate, the leading riders will hit the large paving slabs that are seen all across the city of Siena. Now within the city walls, riding along the narrow streets and under a kilometre from the finishing line in the famous old Piazza del Campo — where the medieval Palio di Siena horse race traditionally takes place each July and August — the road rises one last vicious time.
Twisting finale into Piazza del Campo
At around 500 metres from the line the steepest stretch of road along Via Santa Caterina cruelly tops out at 16 per cent — it was here that did for Wout van Aert in 2018 when the young Belgian cramped up (see below) — before the road takes a sharp right. A left-hand turn is followed by another right hander before the riders, finally, arrive in Piazza del Campo.
Providing they have any horse-power left, once they have navigated a short descent the riders can gallop for the line on one of the few pan-flat stretches of the entire course, which clocks in at a measly 30 metres long.
How can I watch this year's race?
Those lucky enough to have subscriptions to Eurosport or GCN can follow all the action on either television or the app. If you cannot watch the race live then you can follow the second half of both races right here. Bookmark this page and return on the day of race for the latest updates.
What's in it for the winner?
The winner of the men's race will trouser a cheque to the value of €16,000 which, by our calculations, is over seven times more than their female counterparts. The men's runner-up takes home €8,000 and the rider on the third step of the podium €4,000. Here's the breakdown . . .
With Strade Bianche being a WorldTour race, there will also be points on offer that will go towards a riders' overall rankings . . .
What teams will ride at Strade Bianche?
As with all WorldTour races, each of the 19 teams that make up the top-flight of men's professional cycling receive an invite and in the case of Strade Bianche all teams are contracted to race.
In addition to the WorldTour squads, Pro-Continental teams Alpecin-Fenix and Arkéa-Samsic also qualified to race courtesy of last year's rankings, while race organisers RSC handed wildcard spots to Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec, Bardiani-CSF-Faizane, Eolo-Kometa and Vini Zabu.
All nine Women's WorldTeam's (Alé BTC Ljubljana, BikeExchange, Canyon-Sram, DSM, FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope, Liv Racing, Movistar, SD Worx and Trek-Segafredo Women) will participate in the earlier race along with the top six Women’s Continental teams, while eight wildcard spots were handed out and so A.R. Monex, Aromitalia-Basso Bikes-Vaiano, Bepink, Born To Win G20 Ambedo, Ceratizit-WNT, Isolmant-Premac-Vittoria, Jumbo-Visma, Lotto-Soudal, Massi-Tactic, Parkhotel Valkenburg, Servetto-Makhymo-Beltrami TSA, Tibco-SVB, Top Girls Fassa Bortolo, Valcar-Travel & Service will all be in action.
What does the men's startlist look like?
Riders that have either been named by their teams or are expected to race are in bold. Telegraph Sport will update throughout the week before naming the confirmed startlist once released by race organsiers RCS.
Ag2r-Citroën (Fra) — confirmed team: Lilian Calmejane (Fra), Nans Peters (Fra), Michael Schär (Swi), Greg Van Avermaet (Bel), Gijs Van Hoecke (Bel), Andrea Vendrame (Ita), Clément Venturini (Fra).
Astana-Premier Tech (Kaz) — confirmed team: Alex Aranburu (Spa), Manuele Boaro (Ita), Fabio Felline (Ita), Jakob Fuglsang (Den), Jonas Gregaard (Den), Hugo Houle (Can), Gorka Izagirre (Spa).
Bahrain Victorious (Brn) — confirmed team: Pello Bilbao (Spa), Eros Capecchi (Ita), Matej Mohoric (Slo), Domen Novak (Slo), Mark Padun (Ukr), Hermann Pernsteiner (Aut), Jan Tratnik (Slo).
BikeExchange (Aus) — confirmed team: Jack Bauer (NZ), Brent Bookwalter (US), Christopher Juul-Jensen (Den), Barnabas Peak (Hun, neo-pro), Nick Schultz (Aus), Robert Stannard (Aus), Simon Yates (GB).
Bora-Hansgrohe (Ger) — confirmed team: Giovanni Aleotti (Ita, neo-pro), Emanuel Buchmann (Ger), Marcus Burghardt (Ger), Patrick Gamper (Aut, neo-pro), Patrick Konrad (Aut), Daniel Oss (Ita), Ben Zwiehoff (Ger).
Cofidis, Solutions Crédits (Fra): Piet Allegaert (Bel), Fernando Barceló (Spa), Natnael Berhane (Eri), Tom Bohli (Swi), Andre Carvalho (Por), Thomas Champion (Fra, neo-pro), Simone Consonni (Ita), Jempy Drucker (Lux), Nicolas Edet (Fra), Rubén Fernández (Spa) Eddy Finé (Fra, neo-pro), Simon Geschke (Ger), Nathan Haas (Aus), Jesús Herrada (Spa), José Herrada (Spa), Victor Lafay (Fra), Christophe Laporte (Fra), Guillaume Martin (Fra), Emmanuel Morin (Fra), Anthony Perez (Fra), Pierre-Luc Périchon (Fra), Rémy Rochas (Fra), Fabio Sabatini (Ita), Szymon Sajnok (Pol), Hugo Toumire (Fra, neo-pro from August 1), Kenneth Vanbilsen (Bel), Elia Viviani (Ita), Attilio Viviani (Ita, neo-pro), Jelle Wallays (Bel).
Deceuninck-Quick Step (Bel): Julian Alaphilippe (Fra), Joao Almeida (Por), Shane Archbold (NZ), Kasper Asgreen (Den), Andrea Bagioli (Ita, neo-pro), Davide Ballerini (Ita), Sam Bennett (Irl), Mattia Cattaneo (Ita), Rémi Cavagna (Fra), Mark Cavendish (GB), Josef Cerny (Cze), Tim Declercq (Bel), Dries Devenyns (Bel), Remco Evenepoel (Bel), Ian Garrison (US), Álvaro Hodeg (Col), Mikkel Frolich Honore (Den), Fabio Jakobsen (Hol), Iljo Keisse (Bel), James Knox (GB), Yves Lampaert (Bel), Fausto Masnada (Ita), Michael Morkov (Den), Florian Sénéchal (Fra), Pieter Serry (Bel), Stijn Steels (Bel), Jannik Steimle (Ger, neo-pro), Zdenek Stybar (Cze), Bert Van Lerberghe (Bel), Mauri Vansevenant (Bel, neo-pro).
DSM (Ger) — confirmed team: Thymen Arensman (Hol, neo-pro), Romain Bardet (Fra), Romain Combaud (Fra), Chris Hamilton (Aus), JJoris Nieuwenhuis (Hol), Martijn Tusveld (Hol), Kevin Vermaerke (US).
EF Education-Nippo (US): Daniel Arroyave (Col, neo-pro), Will Barta (US), Fumiyuki Beppu (Jpn), Alberto Bettiol (Ita), Stefan Bissegger (Swi, neo-pro), Jonathan Caicedo (Ecu), Diego Camargo (Col, neo-pro), Simon Carr (GB, neo-pro), Hugh Carthy (GB), Magnus Cort (Den), Lawson Craddock (US), Mitchell Docker (Aus), Julien El Fares (Fra), Ruben Guerreiro (Por), Sergio Higuita (Col), Moreno Hofland (Hol), Alex Howes (US), Jens Keukeleire (Bel), Sebastian Langeveld (Hol), Lachlan Morton (Aus), Hideto Nakane (Jpn), Logan Owen (US), Neilson Powless (US), Jonas Rutsch (Ger, neo-pro), Tom Scully (NZ), Rigoberto Urán (Col), Michael Valgren (Den), Julius van den Berg (Hol), Tejay van Garderen (US), James Whelan (Aus).
Groupama-FDJ (Fra) — confirmed team: Kevin Geniets (Hol), Simon Guglielmi (Fra), Stefan Küng (Swi), Tobias Ludvigsson (Swe), Valentin Madouas (Fra), Rudy Molard (Fra), Romain Seigle (Fra).
Ineos Grenadiers (GB): Andrey Amador (Crc), Leonardo Basso (Ita), Egan Bernal (Col), Richard Carapaz (Ecu), Jonathan Castroviejo (Spa), Laurens De Plus (Bel), Rohan Dennis (Aus), Owain Doull (GB), Eddie Dunbar (Irl), Filippo Ganna (Ita), Tao Geoghegan Hart (GB), Michal Golas (Pol), Ethan Hayter (GB, neo-pro), Sebastián Henao (Col), Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol), Daniel Martínez (Col), Gianni Moscon (Ita), Jhonatan Narváez (Col), Tom Pidcock (GB, neo-pro), Richie Porte (Aus), Salvatore Puccio (Ita), Brandon Smith Rivera (Col, neo-pro), Carlos Rodríguez (Spa, neo-pro), Luke Rowe (GB), Pavel Sivakov (Rus), Iván Sosa (Col), Ben Swift (Team Sky), Geraint Thomas (GB), Dylan van Baarle (Hol), Cameron Wurf (Aus), Adam Yates (GB).
Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux (Bel): Jan Bakelants (Bel), Jérémy Bellicaud (Fra, neo-pro), Aimé De Gendt (Bel), Jasper De Plus (Bel, neo-pro), Ludwig De Winter (Bel), Theo Delacroix (Fra, neo-pro), Tom Devriendt (Bel), Odd Christian Eiking (Nor), Alex Evans (Aus, neo-pro), Quinten Hermans (Bel, neo-pro), Jan Hirt (Cze), Jonas Koch (Ger), Wesley Kreder (Hol), Maurits Lammertink (Hol), Louis Meintjes (SA), Riccardo Minali (Ita), Andrea Pasqualon (Ita), Simone Petilli (Ita), Baptiste Planckaert (Bel), Lorenzo Rota (Ita), Rein Taaramae (Est), Taco van der Hoorn (Hol), Corné van Kessel (Hol), Kevin Van Melsen (Bel), Boy van Poppel (Hol), Danny van Poppel (Hol), Pieter Vanspeybrouck (Bel), Loïc Vliegen (Bel), Georg Zimmermann (Ger, neo-pro).
Israel Start-up Nation (Isr): Rudy Barbier (Fra), Sebastian Berwick (Aus, neo-pro), Patrick Bevin (Aus), Jenthe Biermans (Bel), Guillaume Boivin (Can), Matthias Brändle (Aut), Alexander Cataford (Can), Davide Cimolai (Ita), Alessandro De Marchi (Ita), Alex Dowsett (GB), Itamar Einhorn (Isr), Chris Froome (GB), Omer Goldstein (Isr), André Greipel (Ger), Carl Fredrik Hagen (Nor), Ben Hermans (Bel), Hugo Hofstetter (Fra), Reto Hollenstein (Swi), Daryl Impey (SA), Taj Jones (Aus), Dan Martin (Irl), Krists Neilands (Lat), Guy Niv (Isr), James Piccoli (Can), Alexis Renard (Fra, neo-pro), Guy Sagiv (Isr), Mads Wurtz Schmidt (Den), Norman Vahtra (Est, neo-pro), Tom Van Asbroeck (Bel), Sep Vanmarcke (Bel), Michael Woods (Can), Rick Zabel (Ger).
Jumbo-Visma (Hol): Edoardo Affini (Ita), George Bennett (NZ), Koen Bouwman (Hol), David Dekker (Hol, neo-pro), Tom Dumoulin (Hol), Pascal Eenkhoorn (Hol), Tobias Foss (Nor, neo-pro), Robert Gesink (Hol), Dylan Groenewegen (Hol), Chris Harper (Aus), Lennard Hofstede (Hol), Steven Kruijswijk (Hol), Olav Kooij (Hol, neo-pro), Sepp Kuss (US), Gijs Leemreize (Hol, neo-pro), Paul Martens (Ger), Tony Martin (Ger), Sam Oomen (Hol), Christoph Pfingsten (Ger), Primoz Roglic (Slo), Timo Roosen (Hol), Mike Teunissen (Hol), Antwan Tolhoek (Hol), Wout van Aert (Bel), Jos van Emden (Hol), Nathan Van Hooydonck (Bel), Jonas Vingegaard (Den), Maarten Wynants (Bel).
Lotto-Soudal (Bel): Filippo Conca (Ita, neo-pro), Steff Cras (Bel), Jasper De Buyst (Bel), Thomas De Gendt (Bel), John Degenkolb (Ger), Caleb Ewan (Aus), Frederik Frison (Bel), Philippe Gilbert (Bel), Kobe Goossens (Bel, neo-pro), Sébastien Grignard (Bel, neo-pro), Matthew Holmes (GB), Roger Kluge (Ger), Andreas Kron (Den), Kamil Malecki (Pol), Tomasz Marczynski (Pol), Sylvain Moniquet (Bel, neo-pro), Stefano Oldani (Ita, neo-pro), Harry Sweeny (Aus, neo-pro), Gerben Thijssen (Bel, neo-pro), Tosh Van der Sande (Bel), Maxim Van Gils (Bel, neo-pro), Brent Van Moer (Bel), Harm Vanhoucke (Bel), Florian Vermeersch (Bel, neo-pro), Viktor Verschaeve (Bel, neo-pro), Xandres Vervloesem (Bel, neo-pro), Tim Wellens (Bel).
Movistar (Spa) — confirmed team: Héctor Carretero (Spa), Iván García Cortina (Spa), Abner González (Pur, neo-pro), Lluís Mas (Spa), Sergio Samitier (Spa), Gonzalo Serrano (Spa), Alejandro Valverde (Spa).
Qhubeka-Assos (SA): Sander Armée (Bel), Fabio Aru (Ita), Carlos Barbero (Spa), Sean Bennett (US), Connor Brown (NZ, neo-pro), Victor Campenaerts (Bel), Dimitri Claeys (Bel), Simon Clarke (Aus), Nicholas Dlamini (SA), Kilian Frankiny (Swi), Michael Gogl (Aut), Lasse Norman Hansen (Den), Sergio Henao (Col), Reinardt Janse van Rensburg (SA), Bert-Jan Lindeman (Hol), Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita), Matteo Pelucchi (Ita), Robert Power (Aus), Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita), Mauro Schmid (Swi, neo-pro), Andreas Stokbro (Den), Dylan Sunderland (Aus, neo-pro), Harry Tanfield (GB), Karel Vacek (Cze), Emil Vinjebo (Den), Max Walscheid (Ger), Lukasz Wisniowski (Pol).
Trek-Segafredo (US): Julien Bernard (Fra), Gianluca Brambilla (Ita), Giulio Ciccone (Ita), Nicola Conci (Ita), Koen de Kort (Hol), Niklas Eg (Den), Jakob Egholm (Den), Kenny Elissonde (Fra), Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier (Eri), Mattias Skjelmose Jensen (Den, neo-pro), Alexander Kamp (Den), Alex Kirsch (Lux), Emils Liepins (Lat), Juan Pedro López (Spa, neo-pro), Bauke Mollema (Hol), Jacopo Mosca (Ita), Matteo Moschetti (Ita), Ryan Mullen (Irl), Antonio Nibali (Ita), Vincenzo Nibali (Ita), Mads Pedersen (Den), Charlie Quarterman (GB, neo-pro), Kiel Reijnen (US), Michel Ries (Lux, neo-pro), Quinn Simmons (US, neo-pro), Toms Skujins (Lat), Jasper Stuyven (Bel), Edward Theuns (Bel), Antonio Tiberi (Ita, neo-pro).
UAE Team Emirates (UAE): Andrés Camilo Ardila (Col, neo-pro), Juan Ayuso (Spa), Mikkel Bjerg (Den), Sven Erik Bystrom (Nor), Valerio Conti (Ita), Rui Costa (Por), Alessandro Covi (Ita, neo-pro), David de la Cruz (Spa), Joe Dombrowski (US), Davide Formolo (Ita), Fernando Gaviria (Col), Ryan Gibbons (SA), Marc Hirschi (Swi), Alexander Kristoff (Nor), Vegard Stake Laengen (Nor), Rafal Majka (Pol), Marco Marcato (Ita), Brandon McNulty (US), Yousef Mirza (UAE), Juan Sebastián Molano (Col), Cristian Camilo Muñoz (Col), Ivo Oliveira (Por), Rui Oliveira (Por), Tadej Pogacar (Slo), Jan Polanc (Slo), Alexandr Riabushenko (Blr), Maximiliano Richeze (Arg), Matteo Trentin (Ita), Oliviero Troia (Ita), Diego Ulissi (Ita).
UCI Professional Continental teams
Alpecin-Fenix (Bel) — confirmed team: Xandro Meurisse (Bel), Jonas Rickaert (Bel), Petr Vakoc (Cze), Mathieu van der Poel (Hol), Otto Vergaerde (Bel), Gianni Vermeersch (Bel), Philipp Walsleben (Ger).
Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec (Ita): Mattia Bais (Ita), Alessandro Bisolti (Ita), Jefferson Cepeda (Ecu), Luca Chirico (Ita), Ziga Jerman (Slo), Matteo Malucelli (Ita), Leonardo Marchiori (Ita), Daniel Muñoz (Col), Janos Pelikan (Hun), Simon Pellaud (Swi), Andrii Ponomar (Ukr), Simone Ravanelli (Ita), Jhonatan Restrepo (Col), Josip Rumac (Cro), Eduardo Sepúlveda (Arg), Filippo Tagliani (Ita), Natnael Tesfatsion (Eri), Santiago Umba (Col), Nicola Venchiarutti (Ita), Mattia Viel (Ita), Martí Vigo (Spa).
Bardiani-CSF-Faizane (Ita): Enrico Battaglin (Ita), Johnatan Cañaveral (Col), Giovanni Carboni (Ita), Luca Covili (Ita), Nicolas Dalla Valle (Ita), Filippo Fiorelli (Ita), Davide Gabburo (Ita), Andrea Garosio (Ita), Giovanni Lonardi (Ita), Mirco Maestri (Ita), Umberto Marengo (Ita), Fabio Mazzucco (Ita), Alessandro Monaco (Ita), Kevin Rivera (Crc), Daniel Savini (Ita), Alessandro Tonelli (Ita), Tomas Trainini (Ita), Giovanni Visconti (Ita), Filippo Zaccanti (Ita), Filippo Zana (Ita), Enrico Zanoncello (Ita), Samuele Zoccarato (Ita).
Vini Zabu (Ita): Andrea Bartolozzi (Ita), Liam Bertazzo (Ita), Mattia Bevilacqua (Ita), Simone Bevilacqua (Ita), Matteo De Bonis (Ita), Andrea Di Renzo (Ita), Marco Frapporti (Ita), Roberto González (Pan), Kamil Gradek (Pol), Alessandro Iacchi (Ita), Jakub Mareczko (Ita), Davide Orrico (Ita), Daniel Pearson (GB), Jan Petelin (Lux), Joab Schneiter (Swi), Riccardo Stacchiotti (Ita), Veljko Stojnic (Srb), Leonardo Tortomasi (Ita), Wout van Elzakker (Hol), Etienne van Empel (Hol), Edoardo Zardini (Ita).
Eolo-Kometa (Ita) — confirmed team: Davide Bais (Ita), Erik Fetter (Hun), Sergio García (Spa), Arturo Grávalos (Spa), Samuele Rivi (Ita), Diego Pablo Sevilla (Spa), Daniel Viegas (Por).
And who are the favourites in the men's race?
It will surprise few to discover that the bookmakers have made the cyclo-cross specialists — as former France national champion we are including Julian Alaphilippe in here — favourites, and not without good reason.
With the shortest odds Mathieu van der Poel (15/4), the four-time world cyclo-cross world champion, is the favourite and will arrive in Tuscany in fine form. Won his first race of the season, stage one at the UAE Tour, before returning to Europe where he animated Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne with a huge effort. Just days later the big Dutchman appeared poised to win Le Samyn before his handlebars snapped. Raced Strade Bianche just once in 2020, though suffered a series of mechanical issues and was 15th.
Alaphilippe, meanwhile, is joint second favourite with the bookmakers (9/2). The world champion, however, has form — both current and historical — and won here in 2019 so may just edge it over Van der Poel. The Frenchman has looked lively in both races he has started this year: attacking on a rolling first stage of the Tour de la Provence before later challenging on Mont Ventoux then a fortnight later went solo at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Barring disasters will be involved at the business end.
Defending champion Wout van Aert is on the same odds as Alaphilippe and although the Belgian has not raced on the road this year, a heavy block of racing through the sand and mud of northern Europe, where he clinched the cyclo-cross World Cup, should ensure he arrives in good enough nick to once again finish on the podium. The 26-year-old has started three times, each time finishing on the podium and knows what it takes to win. Will be desperate to beat rival and nemesis Van der Poel.
Making his debut and competing in only the second WorldTour race of his career, with odds of 12/1 young British rider Tom Pidcock is the bookmakers's fourth favourite. Though just 21, the Yorkshireman is a phenomena. Following a largely anonymous debut for Ineos Grenadiers at the Tour du Haut Var, made an instant impression at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad where he rode aggressively. The next day at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne he was third. In both races showed no fear while racing against seasoned professionals and may just do something very special.