The Tuscan landscapes, the alleys of cypress trees, the narrow streets of Siena and, of course, the iconic white gravel roads. Finally, the wait was over, it was once again time for the first big Italian classic of the season, the Strade Bianche. Whether or not it will be once recognized as the sixth Monument of cycling, and yes, this debate now seems ever-ongoing each year, the race attracts many fans to this idyllic Italian region.
Since Tadej Pogačar, the reigning champion, announced he wouldn’t be defending his victory this year and Wout van Aert having to pull out of the race due to illness, this year’s race looked wide open to several other favorites on the startlist. That included past winners Mathieu van der Poel and Julian Alaphilippe, with Tom Pidcock, Tiesj Benoot or Matej Mohorič not missing either.
Tudor Pro Cycling Team takes on their first big classic
Strade Bianche was also the first big race of this year’s classics campaign for Tudor Pro Cycling Team, the Swiss team which turned UCI ProTeam this season. The team was formed when Tudor, the main sponsor, joined forces with the Swiss legend Fabian Cancellara. We got a unique chance to witness the whole race weekend from the backstage of the team and also to learn more about their approach to forming and managing a professional team.
The Tudor squad is mainly formed by young riders, with an average age of 22. Although for some of them it might be the first season of WorldTour racing, these young guns are getting special mentoring and leadership from the team boss Cancellara.
“We want to be clear from the very start that Fabian is working closely with our riders. He is really there for them when it is important. We believe it will be motivating for the boys once it comes to big races like Strade Bianche.”
-Thibault Hofer, Head of Communications
That quickly proved true when we got to follow the team during their Friday recon ride before the race. The team boss and 3-time winner of Strade Bianche joined the riders for their ride with the goal to tune them into racing mode.
Supported by dominantly Swiss gear such as BMC as the bike supplier and Assos providing the team kits, Tudor Pro Cycling Team is looking to set it clearly from which country the team comes.
Saturday: The Race day
The weather on the race day was kind to the riders with a clear sky promising to set another race for the books. No hard wind gusts like last year, which took down dozens of riders including Julian Alaphilippe, were forecasted. However, the race did not avoid smaller crashes in the peloton. The unlucky one of the race was the local Tuscan rider Alberto Bettiol who crashed hard, but luckily avoided serious injury.
The women’s race saw a close finish at the Piazza del Campo in Siena between the teammates Lotte Kopecky and Demi Vollering. It was the Dutch star who outsprinted the 2022 winner. One would probably expect the duo to cross the finish line with arms around their shoulders once they passed and dropped the American Kristen Faulkner from Jayco-AlUla up the iconic Via Santa Caterina climb, but it was clearly not the case.
The men’s race started to get serious with about 50 km to go, when Tom Pidcock opened a gap on the sterrato section to go for a long solo attack. The gap however would come down to 9 seconds with a chasing group behind riding strong too, but the star from Yorkshire held off the chasers as we saw him cruise to victory through the final corners of the narrow streets of Siena. Valentin Madouas finished second and Tiesj Benoot third.
Sébastien Reichenbach was the most successful of Tudor’s riders, finishing 50th in the race, with his teammate and the Swedish Champion Lucas Eriksson not far behind. Six out of the seven riders of the team made it to the finish line.
Fabian Cancellara cheered for his riders at the race course and even handed them water bottles, surely a good motivation we reckon. Speaking with Tudor Pro Cycling Team’s CEO Raphael Meyer, the goals for the team’s first season are realistic and the team can be satisfied with the work done in Siena. Their Italian racing campaign continues at the Tirreno Adriatico.
Sunday: The Gran Fondo
If you have ever taken part in a Gran Fondo event, you probably might think it is a rather celebration of cycling, a time to enjoy part of the course that the pros raced on the day before. However, when it comes to Gran Fondo in Italy, it is a different story. The Sunday early morning in Siena was anything but a lazy mellow morning. 6.500 people registered for the event and the city was buzzing. The Gran Fondo was a proper race of its own.
As part of the squad representing Tudor in the Gran Fondo, we could experience the start to the race from the front row, alongside the likes of Sonny Collbrelli, Paolo Bettini, Mario Cipollini and of course Fabian Cancellara. Truly an unforgettable moment, to be honest, to conclude the amazing time we had in Tuscany.