While Strade Bianche signalled the return of the WorldTour in 2020, this year’s edition serves as a reminder that we’re not out of the woods just yet with regards to the coronavirus pandemic.
The one-day Italian classic is set to go ahead despite Siena, where the race is held, becoming a red zone and going into lockdown until at least next week.
Coronavirus cases are increasing once more in the Tuscan city, with residents not allowed to leave unless they have work or for medical reasons, schools will also close, as well as non-essential shops.
Both the men’s and women’s editions of Strade Bianche are scheduled for this coming Saturday, March 6, and will go ahead as planned for the moment, unless the local authorities change their mind in the coming days.
“For now, the race is confirmed. Even though Siena is now classified as ‘code red’, that has no impact on the race, only on the public,” race organisers RCS Sport told Cycling News. “Of course, anything can happen with the virus, but at the moment we have not yet received any notice that the race cannot take place.”
While the 2020 edition added sweltering August heat to the dusty, white Tuscan roads, rain is scheduled for this weekend in Siena, which would only add to the spectacle.
Strade Bianche will open the 2021 women’s WorldTour, while Wout van Aert will make his season debut as defending champion. He will come up against nemesis Mathieu van der Poel, who returned to Europe early from the UAE Tour after members of the Alpecin-Fenix entourage tested positive for Covid-19.
It seems that bike races, with the money and will to do so, have figured out how to race through the pandemic, with extensive testing and extra health and safety protocols being implemented.
At Opening Weekend in Belgium, Israel Start-Up Nation’s Guillaume Boivin and Reto Hollenstein couldn’t take the start line after Dirk Demol tested positive and the two riders had been in contact with the sports director. The WorldTour outfit were left to race with five riders in their squad as Sep Vanmarcke took the third podium spot, and Demol later returned a negative test, raising the possibility that Demol’s initial positive was a false positive.