Men’s 15th Strade Bianche(1.UWT) Siena >>> Siena(184km)

The Monte Sante Marie gravel sector (Photo: © Velo Collection (TDW) /Getty Images)

Start and finishing in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Siena, Strade-Bianche tackles the same iconic route through the rolling hills of Tuscany every year. Over the 184km-long route, there are 11 gruelling gravel sectors for the riders to conquer, each of which are assigned a rating from one to five stars depending on their difficulty. These Strade Bianche, or ‘White Roads’, regularly makeup around 63km of the entire route and serve as ideal launchpads for riders to attack from. As well as being strewn with dusty white stones, these gravel sectors also contain a number of short sharp climbs – several of which boast leg-breaking 20% gradients. If these gravelled roads and excruciating ramps aren’t enough to decide a winner, then the final climb into the centre of Siena certainly is. The last kilometre of this race is one of the most iconic in cycling, not to mention one of the most difficult, and regularly creates one of the most spectacular and jaw-dropping ends to a bicycle race that you’ll see all year. It’s on the Monte Sante Marie sector where we often see the main favourites come to the fore and launch their first, probing attacks. Non-stop attacking in this sector drives a really high pace and often results in a lot of domestics getting shelled, leaving a very select group of riders at the head of the race. Van der Poel, Van Aert, Alaphilippe, Fuglsang, Pidcock and Pogačar as favourites in the mens editon (Info GCN) Mens entry list>>>

Women’s 7th Strade Bianche Donne (1.WWT) Siena >>> Siena (136km)

Annemiek van Vleuten crosses the line in Siena and takes her second successive Strade Bianche title in 2020. Photo: © Velo Collection (Luc Claessen) /Getty Images.

The 136km-long loop features eight gravel sectors, many of which also contain a number of short, sharp climbs that – in some places – exceed gradients of 20%! Together these sectors amount to just over 31km of gravel or around 25% of the entire route. One rider with the power to stop last year’s winner Van Vleuten in her tracks is Anna van der Breggen, a winner of this race in 2018. Like Van Vleuten, Van der Breggen won her Strade Bianche title alone and with a commanding lead over a ragtag group of chasers. She’s also riding into a stellar period of form, as shown by her incredible solo win at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad last Saturday (info GCN+) Entry list women’s edition >>>>

Lotte Kopecky wins the 2021 Le Samyn des Dames and could be there in the final. Photo: © Velo Collection (Mark Van Hecke) /Getty Images.