Riding the Strade Bianche Gran Fondo


What it takes to “Ride into the legend” on the iconic dirt roads of Tuscany…

There are a handful of professional cycling one day races that have become true legends of the sport. This is because of their history, their courses and their champions. The most recent event to gain this status is the relatively youthful Strade Bianche run each year in March in the world heritage setting of the medieval city of Siena and the surrounding Tuscan hills. This race involves a tough hilly course combined with long sections of gravel road (the famed Strade Bianche – white roads) and a unique finish that climbs a steep cobbled street directly into the heart of the city and a final twisting sprint into the spectacular Piazza del Campo, scene of the annual horse race Palio di Siena. Past winners include riders who are legends in their own right such as Spartacus himself – Fabian Cancellara.

Starting in 2015 now we all have opportunity to experience this incredible course the day after the professionals with the Strade Bianche Gran Fondo. In March 2016 two of the BeFitApps team took the excuse to have a short break in Tuscany and take part in this incredible experience. Here are some of the highlights of our trip:

  • Staying in a rustic agriturismo in the Tuscan countryside near to Siena surrounded by fabulous vistas of rolling hills, vineyards, mountains and forest.
  • Eating typical Tuscan food cooked at home with fresh local produce. Nowhere else does simple pasta with tomato sauce reach such heights of culinary perfection! Just wait till you try the freshly made pesto and the olive oil and Chianti all produced on the farm.
  • Socializing with our hosts, other italian guests and the locals. Italians are not shy and welcome you into their bosom taking your language limitations in their stride.
  • Cycling through the Tuscan countryside on a network of engaging roads with tough climbs, exhilarating descents, fantastic views and spectacular towns (ideal lunch stops!).
  • Watching the live footage of the professional race stood in the Piazza del Campo, hearing the approaching roar of the spectators as the race entered the city streets and then watching Fabian sprint across the finish line to win his 3rd Strade Bianche.
  • Cycling at full speed on a closed dirt road in a tightly packed group of cyclists with fingers crossed that punctures and accidents would be avoided!
  • Slipping and sliding down twisty steep gravel tracks before dropping through all the gears and labouring up gravel switchbacks, over and over again and the route looped around the outskirts of Siena.
  • Labouring up the narrow and steep final climb with legs screaming and lungs burning, surrounded by cheering spectators.
  • The incredible finish through the twisting streets of Siena before entering the dramatic Piazza and sprinting under the finish barrier, the same finish graced by the professionals only 24 hours earlier.

Riding the Strade Bianche Gran Fondo is truly a unique experience which will make most other cycling endeavours appear somewhat staid by comparison. Every keen cyclist should add it to their bucket list and make sure they are fit, robust and ready when they are stood in that starting line up so they can really wring the most out of the day…

Battling up the final climb into Siena

Strade Bianche Gran Fondo official website

Tony Lowe