Peter Sagan leads an escape in the 2015 Strade Bianche race

Where: Siena, Italy
When: Saturday March 3 2018
Rank: UCI WorldTour
Distance: 175km

Every cycling fan knows and loves the cobbled Classics that decorate the calendar this time of year. But as Strade Bianche – which in 2018 will take place on Saturday March 8 – demonstrates, cobblestones aren’t the only troublesome road surface that can juice up a race.

Since its inception in 2007 the Strade Bianche has become famous for its dirt roads. These unpaved sectors are characterised by uneven road surfaces and gravel, that is difficult enough to ride over to cause splits, and give the Classic a unique feel to it.

The race achieved WorldTour status in 2017 and this continues into 2018. A women’s race race introduced in 2015, and there’s a sportive the following day, which for 2018 has reached 5,000 entries.

>>> Watch: The best finishes at Strade Bianche (videos)

The men’s route – which is 184km long – includes 11 gravel sectors, totalling over 60km over the course of the whole race. Most feature in the middle of the race, with sectors 5-8 lasting 11.9km, 8km, 9.5km and 11.5km respectively and all crammed in between 110km and 42km to the finish line.

men's strade binache course 2018

Men’s Strade Binache course profile 2018

Strade Bianche men's elite race route

Strade Bianche men’s elite race route

It’s the last of these, in Ponta del Garbo, that’s the toughest, not just for its excessive length, but also for the fact that most of it is uphill. For Strade Bianche isn’t just a test of how well a rider can go over dirt roads – it’s also undulating throughout with plenty of steep gradients, including the uphill finish in Piazza del Campo, Siena.

As such, all sorts of different type of cyclist has a shot of winning here. On one hand Classics specialists like three-time winner Cancellara and 2015’s winner Zdenek Stybar have done well here.

The peloton in the 2015 Strada Bianche

The peloton in the 2015 Strada Bianche

But the hilly terrain brings also into contention climbers. The likes of of Vincenzo Nibali, for instance, can find joy in the unrelenting gradients over some of the parcours and frequently ride in hope of making a similar impact in front of the tifosi at the Strade Bianche as they might at Il Lomardia.

The traditional uphill finish in Siena favours puncheurs like Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Diego Ulissi (UAE-Abu Dhabi), meaning it really is a race for a wide variety of rider.

The women’s Strade Bianche covers 136km, with 8 sectors and 31.4km on gravel roads – comprising 23 per cent of the course. The race was bolstered to UCI Women’s WorldTour status in the competition’s first year in 2016, and this has continued into 2017 and 2018.

Women's Strada Bianche course for 2018

Women’s Strade Bianche course for 2018

Strade Bianche women's elite race route

Strade Bianche women’s elite race route

Women’s winners have included Elisa Longo Borghini (2017), Lizzie Deignan (2016) and Megan Guarnier (2016). The uphill finish into Siena favours a fast finisher who can climb with the best of them.

Deignan has been on the podium every year – but eyes will also be on riders such as Katarzyna Niewiadoma – who was second both in 2016 and 2017

Strade Bianche: Recent winners

2017: Michal Kwiatkowski
2016: Fabian Cancellara
2015: Zdenek Stybar
2014: Michal Kwiatkowski
2013: Moreno Moser
2012: Fabian Cancellara
2011: Philippe Gilbert
2010: Maxim Iglinsky
2009: Thomas Lovkvist
2008: Fabian Cancellara
2007: Alexandr Kolobnev

Women’s Strade Bianche: recent winners

2017: Elisa Longo Borghini
2016: Elizabeth Deignan
2015: Megan Guarnier

Strada Bianche sportive

The sportive event takes place on Sunday, after the pro races.

Riders can choose between two routes – a long course of 139km, featuring 31.4km of gravel, or s shorter option at 86.6km with 21.6km of white roads.

The 2017 event attracted 3,500 riders, and over 5,000 have been tempted to ender in 2018. The long route is identical to the women’s race, with an extra 3km which incorporates the neutral zone not included in the women’s distance, though still covered by the riders.

Key info: Start list | TV Guide

Previous editions: 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011

External links: Official website | Official twitter feed

Stay with us today as we bring you live coverage of the Italian one-day race, Strade Bianche… Want to join in the action? Mark your tweets with the hashtag #cw…

Strade Bianche will be live on Eurosport 2 on Saturday, with highlights programmes being broadcast on Saturday evening and through Sunday and Monday.