Say the title fast three times!! It's a mouthful, but we got a mouthful (and more) of dust at Strade Bianche 2015, our third visit. You can read about our first and second via the links, but here's the story of our third time seeing this soon-to-be classic.
As experienced race-watchers, the first order-of-business was to swing off the A1 autostrada as we neared the frontier of "porchetta country" and pick up a couple of tasty panini stuffed with this roasted pork, a bottle of vino rosso, some apples and a chunk of pecorino cheese. Back on the road towards Siena, Heather navigates us to our first sector of strada sterrata, about 50 kms into the race. We've got plenty of time to relax and enjoy our lunch, but it's so cold and windy Heather got out of the car only for this pose!\
There was plenty of standing around in the cold wind, making us very glad we were not out there on bicycles! In fact, we scrapped that idea entirely for the weekend though we were staying over until Sunday rather than returning to Rome right away.
No helicopter flying above this early in the race so we were warned of the race's approach via an official car followed shortly by an early breakaway: 8 guys with more than 8 minutes lead on the lethargic peloton. And in this cold and wind, who could blame them?
We both got back in the car while we waited for the peloton, here led by almost the entire Movistar team trying to control things for their captain, Alejandro Valverde who would go on to finish 3rd, just like last year.
And just as quickly they were gone with just dust clouds remaining...as well as all the team cars, press cars, broom wagon and ambulance. But with such a compact group, it was easy to (especially as we'd parked the car heading back against the course so we could make a quick escape) get back to the highway.
We zoomed along, bisecting the basic course loop to a long section of sterrata, one we'd watched from before, knowing some interesting action might happen here. The panoramic view of the race approach was important as well.
We stopped just beyond the top of Monte Sante Marie (again poised for a quick escape) where some team staff had parked, so we knew this could be a crucial spot, plus it was just a few kilometers from the highway to ease our race to Siena to see the finale.
The Garmin boys had spare wheels and were hoping former winner Moreno Moser might do the trick again, while his fan club was up here in force as well.
Meanwhile the Lampre guys were busy taping packets of liquid food onto bottles for their riders using high-tech..........duct tape.
Above you can see (despite the less-than-great image) Peter Sagan and eventual winner Zdenek Stybar as Sagan forces the pace. Sagan would run-out-of-gas soon after this, but maybe is still short of form, waiting for the real monuments of cycling to come later?
Vincenzo Nibali went by so fast all I could get was this blurry shot of his butt! He probably didn't want anyone to ask about Astana's license issues?
Shots like this one are one of the reasons we go to these races rather than watch 'em on TV where all the action unfolds from the comfort of your couch. But if a race like this was going on an hour or two by car from where YOU lived, we hope you'd go see it live too. It's hard to get more close to the action than this!
After racing into Siena and parking the car, we ran into the Campo in time to see the final attack on the big screen TV and the winner cross the finish line. Sadly Larry's camera lens was not long enough to get any closer, but you can see how good our vantage point was.
Close enough to almost reach out and touch the winner as he reached the team staff for their congratulations.
Post-race we retired to a nearby agriturismo and a simple, casual dinner. Next morning, having scrapped our cycling plan we set out to cover some more of the famous white roads in the car as R & D for a possible future itinerary. Let us know your thoughts about a vacation featuring Eroica-style riding on these famous roads, but CycleItalia style and in May or June when the weather should be perfect. You won't need to come up with a vintage bicycle or cycling kit, you can ride one of our now-classic steel bikes or bring your own, whatever it's made from!
We capped our weekend with Sunday pranzo HERE before returning to Rome and hope you all had a great weekend too. Next week we'll head off to see a stage of Tirreno-Adriatico, the Race of the Two Seas.