PREVIEW | Strade Bianche 2024 - UAE duo of Pogacar and Wellens face tough competition in Pidcock, Mohoric and Healy

Preview. Strade Bianche is on the road on the 2nd of March. The Italian classic is one of the most recent in the peloton but was one of the most beloved and unique. In the gravel roads of Tuscany, every year the best classics riders fight for an iconic win.

Overall the route remains very recognizable, but organizers have made it extra hard for 2024. Almost an extra hour of racing, the 2024 edition has 215 kilometers in distance and is even longer than in the past. A true endurance race now, besides all else.

PREVIEW | Strade Bianche 2024 - UAE duo of Pogacar and Wellens face tough competition in Pidcock, Mohoric and Healy
Siena - Siena (Piazza Del Campo), 215 kilometers

There are 71Km of gravel divided into 15 sectors, as short as 600 meters long and as big as 11.9Km in length, and they aren’t concentrated in any specific area of the route but rather spread evenly throughout the race, it’s one of attrition, where tactics, positioning and let’s admit, a tad bit of luck all have to be ticked off the box. The route starts off in some rolling roads and just a bit before the halfway point of the race the first major challenge comes.

PREVIEW | Strade Bianche 2024 - UAE duo of Pogacar and Wellens face tough competition in Pidcock, Mohoric and Healy
Monte Sante Marie

Lucignano d’Asso sector, the 5th and biggest of the race and finishes with 127Km to go, it’s a fairly hard sector that has a lot of room for crashes, punctures, splits, etc… Every sector (and well every Kilometer) is a chance for something to go wrong, and like in the cobbles it’s a matter of having the least possible energy spent unnecessary, this is where the real race starts!

Monte Sante Marie is perhaps the first crucial sector of the race, ending with just over 72 kilometers to go and featuring a whole kilometer at 10%. However the sheer size and diversity of gradients found throughout the sector makes it a brutal one that will inevitably explode the race.

Colle Pinzuto finishes with 47Km to go and is one of the last pieces of brutal roads where gaps can be made out of power and not opportunity, it’s one that doesn’t include descents so it’s quite a brute.

PREVIEW | Strade Bianche 2024 - UAE duo of Pogacar and Wellens face tough competition in Pidcock, Mohoric and Healy
Colle Pinzuto

Le Tolfe follows, it summits with 42Km to go and is a U shaped sector, you enter it full speed in a descent and then have a nasty ramp in the gravel, the last white road of the race and for sure at this race we can have the rider, or the group of riders who will fight for the win.

PREVIEW | Strade Bianche 2024 - UAE duo of Pogacar and Wellens face tough competition in Pidcock, Mohoric and Healy
Le Tolfe

This now is where the route changes. Traditionally, the riders would then have a few hills and ride into Siena just a few kilometers away. In 2024 an extra loop is added. This will feature the 1.3-kilometer long Strada del Castagno which finishes with 39 kilometers to go, and then the 3.3-kilometer long downhill San Giovanni a Cerreto which ends with 22.5 kilometers to go.

In antecedes Colle Pinzuto and Le Tolfe which will be climbed for a second time. These will end with 17 and 12 kilometers to go, by this point the race may already be decided, but if not certainly these pinch points can be the end of many riders' ambitions.

PREVIEW | Strade Bianche 2024 - UAE duo of Pogacar and Wellens face tough competition in Pidcock, Mohoric and Healy
Via Santa Caterina & Finale

From there on there are 12 kilometers into the finish line. They will by no means be easy as the road keeps tilting either up or down, however it does give some opportunity to reconsolidate the race and possible form alliances ahead of the final ascent.

If a group, it will all be decided in the narrow streets of Siena, Via Santa Caterina is one of the most iconic places in cycling and you’re sure to get some awesome images. The decisive ramp will go up to 16% in it's steepest section (700 meters, 9% average gradient) and the final corners into the heart of Siena will be a final opportunity to overtake other riders.

The Weather

PREVIEW | Strade Bianche 2024 - UAE duo of Pogacar and Wellens face tough competition in Pidcock, Mohoric and Healy
Map Strade Bianche 2024

The days leading up to the race see some rain, which will fall on the gravel sectors. It won't be too much, the sectors may not be too muddy and this can in fact help with traction. Ultimately it varies from sector to sector, but on the uphills it will likely make it a bit more complicated. The wind will also blow hard from the west. This isn't the most exposed terrain, and it is also very windy so there won't be long sections in any direction in the meaningful phase of the race. Early on there certainly can be attempts to do some echelons, that is not impossible.

The Favourites

Tadej Pogacar - The winner of the 2022 race. In 2023 he started his season with a dominant gravel win in Jaen. He can do the same, he has not raced so far but at this point in his career I would have no surprise if the Slovenian just entered the season dominating a race of this level. A lover of the off-road, long races and steep climbs, he will be the main favourite actually. But UAE have a super team as Tim Wellens displayed tremendous form at the Opening Weekend and is also a very big man that can fight for the win. Never discard Isaac Del Toro, the neo-pro has been hugely impressive so far and he does have a past in mountain biking; whilst the team can also count on Marc Hirschi and another off-road talent Jan Christen who can definitely ride in this terrain.

Matej Mohoric - Mohoric is the Gravel World Champion. In the Opening Weekend he did not show his best climbing legs, that is not good news when the competition consists of a compatriot like Pogacar. Still Mohoric is an endurance beast and technically perhaps the most talented in the whole peloton. He may take a big one if he choses his moments right, and the sketchier the sectors are the better for the leader of Bahrain - Victorious.

Tom Pidcock - Pidcock is a rider you can rarely predict, but one thing you can be sure of: The leader of INEOS is an extremely talented bike handler and built last year's win on his descending skills. He looked good in recent weeks and has this as a goal. The short steep climbs suit him and the enlargement of the route could suit him if he has a good day. He's backed by a team that has a lot of talent but also a lot of experience, Michal Kwiatkowski himself a contender for a good result.

Visma - Lease a Bike has an interesting team with several outsiders. Christophe Laporte in my opinion the leader, but I argue that the race may be too tough for him honestly. Still the form is there and he will be motivated. The team has three options, the second is Sepp Kuss who looked quite good in Jaén and is a fan of this terrain, whilst the third is Attila Valter - fifth last year, and also fifth last week at the UAE Tour where he was given a leadership opportunity. He's definitely a rider who loves this race and can surprise again.

BORA - BORA have Daniel Martínez who is a very interesting contender. In my eyes not exactly a rider who usually does good off-road, but if he is here he should definitely hold his own. After beating Remco Evenepoel uphill twice at the Volta ao Algarve, it's safe to say we're seeing the best Martínez back and quite motivated. He leads BORA, who also have Lennard Kämna and Sergio Higuita as options.

EF - Plenty riders in this lineup can perform. Ben Healy is my main option, in great form during the Algarve, he is the ideal rider for this type of profile - although I can't say if he can ride in the gravel with the best, we will find out. Neilson Powless, Richard Carapaz and Alberto Bettiol are all strong riders, at their best all podium contenders. The team can definitely risk a bit, it will be interesting to see how far they can go.

Lotto Dstny - After winning the UAE Tour, Lennert van Eetvelt will be trying something completely different. A very explosive climber he certainly is a rider to watch, also obviously because of current great form. Still it is relatively unknown how he can do in this terrain. He, and Vuelta a Andalucia (time-trial) winner Maxim van Gils are contenders for a Top10.

Dylan Teuns - Dylan Teuns looked very strong in the cobbles of the Opening Weekend. He's definitely a danger rider, he loves these steep and repeated climbs and in current form can perform above what he's shown since moving to Israel. The team also has Tour Down Under winner Stephen Williams and Krists Neilands, both riders to watch in my opinion.

Bastien Tronchon - Do not neglect the AG2R youngster. On paper Benoît Cosnefroy can be called leader, but the protection will be around Tronchon. He was second at the Clásica Jaén Paraiso Interior, beating Jan Tratnik and Tim Wellens who were stars of the Opening Weekend. This young French puncheur is definitely someone who can handle off-road and punchy efforts, he could even be the big surprise of this race if he can handle the distance.

Furthermore we've got other outsiders, the French specially have big weapons. Soudal - Quick-Step have Kasper Asgreen and Julian Alaphilippe, DSM have the duo of Romain Bardet and Warren Barguil, Jayco have Filippo Zana and Felix Engelhardt, Cofidis have Guillaume Martin and Axel Zingle. Romain Grégoire, Lenny Martínez and Kévin Vauquelin are also riders to keep under eye.

Other riders to note are Gianni Vermeersch, Quinn Simmons, Lorenzo Rota, Vincenzo Albanese, Simone Velasco, Ide Schelling, Ivan García Cortina and... who knows Michael Gogl can come out once again.

Prediction Strade Bianche 2024:

*** Tadej Pogacar, Tim Wellens
** Tom Pidcock, Matej Mohoric, Ben Healy
* Isaac Del Toro, Sepp Kuss, Attila Valter, Christophe Laporte, Romain Grégoire, Daniel Martínez, Lennert van Eetvelt, Dylan Teuns, Bastien Tronchon, Lenny Martínez

Pick: Tadej Pogacar

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