Bike racing has its up and downs. There are transition days at the Tour de France where the most notable bit of footage is a giant bicycle made of tractors in a field, then there are days where seemingly every kilometer of racing keeps you glued to the screen.
The later is Strade Bianche. The words instant classic and cycling’s sixth Monument are perfectly justified.
To start the race is simply stunning. It’s beautiful country, 184km of racing across the Tuscan hills, through Chianti vineyards and cypress trees. And a full third of the distance is on white gravel roads that kick up dust and threaten punctures, mechanicals and crashes.
When it comes to the racing, Strade Bianche doesn’t suit a single type of rider. Which enhances the fun further. Clydesdale Classics men and skinny climbers both have their shots if they play their cards right and have a little luck on their side.
Take this years winner. Julian Alapihlippe is a whopping 130 pounds (60kg), not your classic Monument rider by any stretch. He was followed up by Jakub Fuglsang in second-place and triple cyclocross World Champion Wout van Aert in third.
The racing to get to the podium was about as exciting as it gets. Alaphilippe and Fuglsang were chased by a solo Van Aert who was in turn chased by a group which included Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet. Behind them, and making up ground, were Tour de France champions Geraint Thomas and Vincenzo Nibali.
Doesn’t get much better than that.
Add to that the fact that Julian Alaphilippe had never raced Strade Bianche before.
Alaphilippe forced a beautiful race winning move with Fuglsang from the Monteaperti gravel sector, 23km from the finish. He then allowed Fuglsang to almost crest the Santa Caterina climb first just 200m from finish line before he whipped around him set off through the last few tight corners and took the win.
What a race.