Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Strade Bianche Eroica Pro 2019

Strade Bianche Eroica Pro 2019

We've enjoyed chasing this race over the years since it started and since we were headed to the USA via Milano we thought "Why not go up early and see the race?"

First things first: a stop for sfogliatelle before our high-speed train ride to Firenze.

Where the nice folks at the rental car office upgraded us from our economy-class ride to this stealthy black Alfa-Romeo "Guilia" to blast around the dirt roads of Toscana. We didn't tell them of our plans. A very nice car with the exception of the modern driver "aids" like an annoying beeper that went off every time you changed lanes without a signal or got too close to the car in front of you. And Zio Lorenzo could find no way to turn the damn things off! AGGHHHRRR!

We headed south to Siena with a plan to see the race at our usual first stop. On the way we wondered how much longer, with the popularity of this event growing every year, can we expect to get away with chasing the race around without any sort of credentials? We'd find out soon enough!

Somewhere online Zio read a comment from someone going on about all the "new gravel technology" they hoped to see at this race. I had to laugh as this event's been around long before "gravel" was even in the marketing-maven's lexicon!

As you can see here, there isn't anything special about the bikes other than perhaps some fatter-than-normal tires. This reminded us of not-too-long ago when the BMC team showed up with tires marked 22 mm and the team staff claimed their riders would turn their nose up at anything marked any wider! The conditions here are not truly GRAVEL anyway, the white roads of Tuscany are pretty much dirt with some small rocks and pebbles around - you really don't need huge tires to ride on 'em as thousands prove every year at the epoca events run here.

Pretty much the same bikes used everywhere with perhaps an exception for Paris-Roubaix. Same high-profile wheels and slab-sided "aero" bikes, whether the riders like 'em or not! The winner was not riding his sponsor's brand of "aero" bike but rather their standard road machine...far from the whiz-bang, spring-loaded and/or rubber-bumped things they put some of 'em on at P-R

There were some regular folks out riding the course, perhaps getting a feel for it before Sunday's GranFondo? But they were eating well too, as you can see above.

We enjoyed the panini we brought while we waited for the race to arrive and the helicopter soon notified us that was about to happen. A bunch of race marshals were riding these strange 3-wheeled things with massive suspension members up front. 

And then, the race!

We like this spot as the parking is easy and it's close to a paved road offering easy escape so we can take a shortcut to the next place, Monte Sante Marie. 

As soon as the van with the ...

..."Fine Gara Ciclistica" signs went past we were back in the car following the race. The same team car you see above ended up on our tail as we raced over the dusty roads, so we pulled over and swapped places with the idea we'd use it to get through any roadblocks. We were pretty sure they were going to the same place we were and we soon were on the same shortcut, going at a pretty high-speed, but one easy for the Alfa!

But sadly, we couldn't get through the next road block despite being in-between two cars with race stickers! Oh well, we knew our good fortune had to end at some point.

We continued against the race route and nobody bothered us until the police began stopping traffic, so we pulled over to watch Diego Rosa still off the front by a minute pass by with the group soon after.

From there we continued on to Siena and the Piazza Campo to await the finish.

They had a big screen TV to follow the action as it unfolded. 

Once the race ended we headed over to one of our old favorite hotels, Quatto Gigli for a nice dinner and night's sleep.

Luigi is a wizard of wine and always has the perfect bottle to go with our dinner!

We headed back to Firenze on Sunday morning, but first swung by to see the GP di Larciano pass by. What a country!!!

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