Road Bike Action was on hand for the 7th edition of Strade Bianche, certainly one of the coolest races on the pro cycling calendar. Strade Bianchi, originally inspired by the L'Eroica vintage gran fondo, is a tough 188km race from Gaiole in Chianti to Siena with six sections totaling 57.2km on the legendary white gravel roads among the storied vineyards and olive groves of the hilly Chianti region south of Florence.
The day dawned clear, cool and windy, making the difficult percorso even harder than usual, but pre-race, the ridders were in a good mood as Strade Bianche is a race almost universally loved by pro cyclists, while many local riders and tifosi showed up at the start in Gaiole in Chianti to see their stars.Most tifosi were expecting a battle royal between Peter Sagan and double Strade Bianchi winner
Fabian Cancellara, but it was Sagan's young teammate Moreno Moser, nephew of Italian great Francesco Moser, who took an audacious win at Strade Bianche., first ever by an Italian rider.
Peter Sagan's Cannondale Super Six Evo H-Mod Team sported a SRAM Red group set, Cannondale cranks, FSA bars & stem, Fizik saddle and Vison TC 50 wheels. Sagan was closely marked all day and helped his teammate Moser take the win, while the Slovak Slayer eventually finished 2nd in Siena.
New tire sponsor for Cannondale Pro Cycling in 2013 is Kenda, but this 25mm tubular looks a lot like a re-badged Veloflex Arenberg.
Whether for L'Eroica or the Strade Bianche, no trip to Gaiole in Chianti would be complete without a visit to Dario Cecchini in Panzano, just 20km away. Italy's #1 butcher and flamboyant restauranteur was in the USA, but his tongue-in-cheek humor loomed large outside his Antica Macelleria Cecchini.
ProTour outfit Ag2r La Mondiale has made a big switcheroo in material sponsors for 2013, with frame, wheels and cockpits all new for the French outfit. Focus supplies the bikes and local lad Rinaldo Nocentini rode his Ag2r La Mondiale team edition Izalco Team SL to the podium at Strade Bianche, finishing 3rd. Ag2r has Campagnolo's Record EPS 11 speed groupset. "Noce" has an 11-29 cassette with 53X39 up front for the steep finish in Siena. Fulcrum supplies the wheels, replacing Reynolds and the Racing Speed XLR's, shod with Schwalbe Ultremo HT 25mm tubulars have blue decals to match the Ag2r color scheme. Look pedals provide the power and Nocentini has a matching Fizik saddle,
seat post and the new Fizik bars and stem
Former Tour de France Maillot Jaune Nocentini is popular in Italy, especially in his native Tuscany.
Here posing with the junior racers, "Noce" is from Arezzo, just 50km from Gaiole in Chianti
Close up of Nocentini's Racing Speed XLR wheels with Campagnolo 11-29 cassette and Schwalbe Ultremo HT 25mm tubulars.
Former Dutch champ Pim Lighart of Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team has his Bianchi Oltre XR
dialed in for Strade Bianche. The sleek celeste carbon chassis is outfitted with a Selle San Marco
Regal 2 saddle perched atop the Oltre's aero seat post. Campagnolo's Record EPS 11 speed groupset and FSA bars, stem and crankset and Lighart rolls on custom color FFWD wheels, shod with
25mm FMB tubulars stamped as Vredestein.
Lighart is ready for whatever Strada Bianche might throw at him with a 11X29 rear cassette and
Vredestein badged 25mm FMB tubulars.
Friendly American Ty Farrar told Road Bike Action before Strade Bianche "I love this race! It's not really a race for me but I really enjoy riding it. Farrar ended up 54th in a group 11 minutes behind Moser.
While the intrepid racers of Strade Bianche challenged the tough white gravel climbs, Road Bike Action was challenged by a huge plate of pici con ragu (thick, chewy hand rolled tuscan spaghetti with meat sauce) for pranzo di mezzogiorno.