Peter Sagan leads an escape in the 2015 Strade Bianche race

Where: Siena, Italy
When: Saturday March 4 2017
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 demonstrates, cobblestones aren’t the only troublesome road surface that can juice up a race.

Since its inception in 2007 and now a WorldTour race in 2017, 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.

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

In total, there are 11 of these 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.

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 takes place before the men’s and was significant in 2016 as it was the first event in the UCI’s new Women’s WorldTour calendar. The female riders take on a 127km route with Britain’s Lizzie Armitstead the defending champion.

Strade Bianche: Recent winners
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

Strade Bianche: Last year’s top 10 (2016)
1. Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Trek-Segafredo in 4-39-35
2. Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Etixx-QuickStep at same time
3. Gianluca Brambilla (Ita) Etixx-QuickStep at 4 secs
4. Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff at 13 secs
5. Petr Vakoc (Cze) Etixx-QuickStep at 34 secs
6. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing at 37 secs
7. Diego Ulissi (Ita) Lampre-Merida at 41 secs
8. Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto-Soudal
9. Lars Petter Nordhaug (Nor) Sky at same time
10. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar at 50 secs

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.

Three UCI Pro Continental teams and 18 WorldTour outfits will race on the white roads of Tuscany on Saturday March 4