The white gravel roads that will be used in Saturday’s Strade Bianche are looking a little whiter than usual after Italy was hit with the same cold weather and snow that is affecting much of western Europe.
Temperatures in Tuscany fell as low as -7ºC overnight – around 15ºC lower than the average for the area in late February – as the Italian Meteorological Service issued an orange weather warning for extreme low temperatures and a yellow weather warning for high winds.
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The good news for riders who had to endure freezing temperatures at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne this weekend is that the mercury is forecast to rise later in the week, meaning there shouldn’t be snow on the roads for Strade Bianche on Saturday.
The bad news is that the higher temperatures will also bring rainfall not only on Saturday, but also on the days before the race on Thursday and Friday, raising the prospect that the unsurfaced gravel roads could turn from white to a muddy brown mess just as they did during last year’s race and during the infamous stage seven at the 2010 Giro d’Italia.
The Polish rider has been getting used to the snow with his recon of Milan-San Remo on Monday, and will face competition from the likes of Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing), Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), and Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors).
In the women’s race, which covers many of the same roads and uses the same Siena finale as the men’s race, Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle-High5) is the defending champion with Lizzie Deignan and Anna Van der Breggen (Boels-Dolmans), Lucinda Brand (Team Sunweb), and Pauline Ferrand-Prevot (Canyon-SRAM) all on the start list.