Organiser RCS Sport invited Sky today among its 18 teams to Strade Bianche, its popular one-day race through the hills of Siena, but cancelled Roma Maxima, the event that finished outside of the Colosseum for the last two years.
Strade Bianche will run on Saturday, March 7, ahead of RCS Sport’s Tirreno-Adriatico stage race. Roma Maxima was scheduled for March 8 but will not run due to ‘organisational problems’.
Sky will race Strade Bianche with first division, WorldTour teams Ag2r La Mondiale, Astana, BMC Racing, Etixx-QuickStep, Lampre-Merida, Movistar, Orica-GreenEdge, Cannondale-Garmin, Katusha, LottoNL-Jumbo, Trek Factory Racing and Tinkoff-Saxo.
Second division teams Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela, Bardiani-CSF, Nippo-Vini Fantini, RusVelo, Southeast-YellowFluo and Novo Nordisk received wildcard invitations.
The race covers the white gravel roads that criss-cross the Tuscan countryside around Siena and finishes up the 16 per cent gradients leading to the heart of the hilltop town. Poland’s Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx-QuickStep) won last year in the Piazza del Campo, where the twice-yearly ‘Palio’ horse races run.
The one-day race, Italy’s answer to the Tour of Flanders, began in 2007 and has seen several big stars win: Alexandr Kolobnev, Fabian Cancellara, Thomas Lovkvist, Maxim Iglinskiy, Philippe Gilbert, Moreno Moser and Kwiatkowski. Gilbert and Kwiatkowski both went on to win the World Championship title, Kwiatkowski taking his rainbow jersey last September in Ponferrada, Spain.
The same white gravel roads host the popular Eroica cyclo-sportive every year. Many cyclists choose ride on retro bikes and in vintage clothing.
RCS Sport Cycling Director, Mauro Vegni was not available when called for this article. The Roma Maxima, however, with its climbs through history and ride into the Eternal City in front of the Colosseum, was a jewel in RCS Sport’s crown.
When RCS Sport introduced it in 2013, it resurrected the Giro del Lazio, one of Italian cycling’s long running events. It had been around since the days of Benito Mussolini in 1933. The race ran as the GP Roma for two years and in 1957, as a 116-kilometre time trial.
Max Sciandri won the Giro del Lazio in 2000 before the race’s 12-year hiatus. He compared such a grand finish to closing the Tour de France in Paris on the Champs-Élysées.
When the race returned as Roma Maxima, Blel Kadri (Ag2r La Mondiale) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) took the 2013 and 2014 titles. The course climbed to Rocca Massima, Rocca Priora and Campi di Annibale, where Hannibal and his elephants stopped to rest 2000 years ago.
RCS Sport explained in its press release that “organisational problems” forced it to put Roma Maxima on hold. Similar problems stopped its Giro del Piemonte a few times, but the event returned until 2013.