Siena, Italy will welcome 6500 gung-ho gravel cyclists from over 30 countries on 5 March who are eager to experience a “Sunday in Southern Hell,” pedaling over the same dusty, dirty stretches of white gravel road that will be raced on the day before by the greatest professionals in the sport.

The sold out Gran Fondo Strade Bianche is the amateur version of the pro Strade Bianche race, offering a 138 kilometers long race route with 42km of bone shaking gravel in the hills of Tuscany.

The gravel gran fondo departs from Fortress Medicea and at kilometer 11 riders will enter the 1st of 9 dirt sectors. 2.1 kilometers of pristine strade bianche (white gravel) will begin the shredding process, breaking the mass-start peloton into small groups. A few kilometers later the 2nd gravel sector of 5.8km in length with gradients over 12% will finish the job, leaving tiny groups working together (or not) to navigate the remaining 119km of stunning Tuscany scenery. Riders will climb and descend again and again on both white gravel and black asphalt – with some gravel sectors serving up 18% inclines to thin the field even more.

Riding alongside amateurs will be 48 year-old Paolo Bettini, 2004 Olympic Champion and double World Champion (2006 & 2007): “You must always be focused, find the right balance because every stretch of dirt road, even the one as smooth as paper, hides pitfalls. I participated in virtually every edition of this Gran Fondo and I was also lucky enough to run the first editions of the race in my professional career. I advise amateurs not to travel the [gravel] sectors at the same speed as they will see the day before [by the pros]. The Gran Fondo is above all fun.”

At the finish many amateurs will fantasize about living the pro dream and try to emulate superstar Mathieu van der Poel’s blistering final attack on the Via Santa Caterina climb up to the center of Siena filled with tifosi cheering at the top of their lungs.


Photos: RCS