Photography: Ian S. Walton
The Women’s Strade
In a short time the Strade Bianche has become, for me, one of the best races of the season. It’s beautiful and on edge. It’s also chaotic in the manner of a true classic like Roubaix. The narrow roads and variable terrain lends to mechanicals, falls, attacks and all the carnage that those elements evoke. You need punch on the steep climbs, agile handling on the equally steep descents and pure power on the stretches in between. And then you’re up against the weather of an unpredictable Tuscan spring.
The women’s Strade Bianche was a true classic race this year. I was in with Tibco Team, as part of a weekend spent with them getting to understand the ins & outs of a professional cycling team. Thus, on race day, I was in the hot seat of car number three in the convoy, right at the heart of the excitement.
The calm before the storm was settore 1 – the first section of white road – as this was a timid beast. Straight and well kept. Subsequent settore were not to be so timid. Precluded or followed by sharp turns, the white roads were enticing a need to be at the front, at all costs. Radio chatter demanding it. Riders trying to deliver. The changing conditions all day, from drizzle to sun to rain and repeat, only added to the challenges over 127 kilometres. Crashes, attacks, mechanicals and legs that went AWOL soon left the peloton scattered. Cars and riders were forced to steer around pile-ups into gutters to simply do their respective jobs, all at high pace on precarious surfaces. Experiencing the course at close quarters only adds to the drama; the tension, the need to race, not to let it pass you by.
A classic race, that no team could – on the day – or ever really has been able to – in the race’s history – control. Classics season is always the most exciting for me, but with Strade Bianche getting better and better every year, spring has become even more the time of year to enjoy. Writing this on International Women’s Day, I wouldn’t have changed anything, the women’s race was exhilarating. The only downside was the lack of coverage, so many people didn’t get to appreciate what was perhaps the best race of the weekend.
Thanks to Team Tibco-SVB for their time.