After the huge success of the Eroica sportif ride on the breathtaking roads of Tuscany on Sunday, a quality field of professional riders will go back in time, recreating scenes of pre war racing in what organisers hope will develop into the Italian equivalent of Paris-Roubaix.
Alessandro Petacchi (Milram), Gilberto Simoni (Saunier Duval), Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas), Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) and Frank and Andy Schleck (CSC) will ride the 180km race that includes 60km of dirt roads divided into seven sections through the Tuscan hills. The race starts in the Tuscany village of Gaiole in Chianti and ends in Siena in the afternoon.
The riders will finish with a lap of the Piazza di Campo just like the famous Palio horse race that is held twice a year. The course is hilly with some dirt climbs touching 18 per cent but there are also some technically difficult dirt road descents.
Several big races have disappeared from the professional calendar in recent years but the Eroica is a new event created by the organisers of the Giro d?Italia. After the loss of the Championship of Zurich race, the riders see happy to ride an easier race as they wind down at the end of the season. The finish will suit the sprinters but the steep climbs and dirt roads should some interesting and spectacular racing.
After winning the Tour of Flanders in April, Ballan is the natural favourite for the race and wants to become the first professional Eroica winner.
?I?d like to be the first rider on the list of winners because I think it can become a classic on the calendar. We?ll also have cross rider Enrico Franzoi in the Lampre line-up and so we?ll try and work together. It won?t be easy because there are some good riders in the race and most of them are on form.?
Unfortunately, local rider and on form sprinter Daniele Bennati will not be in the Lampre team. He had already studied the route but an X-ray confirmed he has a micro fracture in his wrist after a crash in the Vuelta and so his 2007 season is already over. New world champion Paolo Bettini decided not to ride but will act as official starter.
Most of the riders at the Eroica will stay in Tuscany for the Coppa Sabatini race near Pisa on Thursday.
There will be a full report on the race here on cyclingweekly.co.uk immediately after the race.
Event website: www.gazzetta.it/montepaschieroica