What is this race and why should I care about it?
Strade Bianche is a unique race in the professional calendar that has its earned place in the hearts of cycling fans, despite only being in existence for 13 years. While amateurs are often found aping their heroes at cyclosportives or granfondos, the first Italian race of the WorldTour season in fact reverses the paradigm.
Taking its lead from the huge popularity of L'Eroica, the non-competitive amateur event that traverses the chalky white roads of Tuscany and requires riders to complete the event on retro steel bicycles, RCS Sport, organisers of the Giro d'Italia, launched Strade Bianche — then called Monte Paschi Eroica — in October 2007 when Alexandr Kolobnev won the inaugural edition of the race.
After moving the race to March the following year, Swiss classics specialist Fabian Cancellara won the first of the three Strade Bianche titles he claimed before retiring in 2016. Unsurprisingly, the race has become a particular favourite with the classics riders, particularly since its move to the earlier part of the calendar. Previous winners include Philippe Gilbert, Michal Kwiatkowski, Zdenek Stybar and Julian Alaphilippe, while Moreno Moser is the sole Italian to have the race on his palmarès.
Strade Bianche earned itself WorldTour status in 2016. The sixth edition of the women's edition takes place on the same day as the men's race and is part of the Women's WorldTour.
When does cycling return?
Although Strade Bianche has widely been described as the first race back since lockdown, a smattering of senior men's events have already taken place, though none yet at the top tier of professional cycling. Czech rider Michael Kukrle won the Dookoła Mazowsza stage race in Poland earlier this month before Felix Groß of Germany took the honours at another Polish race, the one-day Puchar MON. The highest-profile race to have been completed, thus far, the Sibiu Tour in Romania, was won by WorldTour rider Gregor Mühlberger of the Bora-Hansgrohe team.
On Wednesday the five-day Vuelta a Burgos will see a much stronger field than normal set off from the city of Burgos in northern Spain, before three days later some of the biggest names in world cycling will give their respective seasons a reboot at La Route d'Occitanie — the old Route du Sud — which will mark the beginning of an action-packed 100-day period in which, more or less, an entire year of racing will be condensed. Hopefully.
And when is Strade Bianche?
After becoming the first WorldTour race of the year to be postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, the race will now be the first top tier event to take place following an easing of lockdown restrictions across Europe. The race is scheduled to get under way at 1.45pm (12.45pm, BST) on Saturday August 1, 2020, and conclude at around 6.30pm (5.30pm, BST). The women's race will start at 12.00pm (11am).
How long is this year's race?
The men's race is just 184 kilometres, the women's 136km.
How can I watch this year's race?
Those lucky enough to have subscriptions can watch the action on Eurosport with coverage scheduled to start at around 3.50pm until the conclusion of the race. If you cannot watch the race on TV, then you can follow the action right here, so remember to bookmark this page and return on Saturday.
What's in it for the winner?
The winner of the men's race will trouser a cheque – or possibly a bank transfer to the same value, we have not asked race organisers RCS Sport – to the value of €16,000 which, by our calculations, is over 600 per cent more than their female counterparts. The second-placed rider in the men's race takes home €8,000 and the rider on the third step of the podium €4,000. Here's the full breakdown . . .
With Strade Bianche being a WorldTour race, there will also be points on offer that will go towards a riders' overall rankings . . .
What teams will ride at Strade Bianche?
Unlike some WorldTour races, not all teams from the top tier of men's cycling are automatically contracted to race Strade Bianche and so Cofidis Solutions Crédits will not travel to Tuscany, though the remaining 18 squads will send seven-man teams. Five Professional Continental teams will race. Circus-Wanty Gobert qualified as a result of their place in the UCI rankings, while five further teams — Alpecin-Fenix, Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec, Arkéa-Samsic, Bardiani-CSF-Faizane and B&B Hotels-Vital Concept p/b KTM — were handed wildcard entries by race organisers RCS.
In the women's race, all eight Women’s WorldTeams will appear alongside 15 teams from the Women’s Continental division.
How many riders will start the race?
Each of the 24 teams in the men's race will comprise seven riders, and so 168 men will start. With just six in each of the 23 women's teams the first peloton of the day will feature 138 riders.
Who are the bookmakers' favourites for the race?
Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix, Hol): 9/2
Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step, Fra): 5/1
Jakob Fuglsang (Astana, Den): 9/1
Maximilian Schachmann (Bora-Hansgrohe, Ger): 12/1
Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe, Svk): 14/1
Zdenek Stybar (Deceuninck-Quick Step, Cze): 14/1
Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma, Bel): 14/1
Tiesj Benoot (Sunweb, Bel): 16/1
Michal Kwiatkowski (Ineos, Pol): 18/1
Alexey Lutsenko (Astana, Kaz): 20/1