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2 March 2011 No comments

Monte Paschi Strade Bianche (The Spandex L'Eroica)

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Monte Paschi Strade Bianche (The Spandex L'Eroica)

At this very moment, countless badgers, innumerable chipmunks, and a close to infinite quantity of bats are drowsily rubbing the sleep from their well rested eyes and wondering what they might like for their first breakfast in about three or four months.

Elsewhere, mile-hungry, be-spandexed gentlemen are standing at their front doors, wondering if the woollen balaclava might not finally be overdoing it a little for their training spin.

But in these parts we have a much more reliable indicator than (Mother or Human) Nature to let us know that our planet's journey around the sun is currently causing winter snow to melt in the Northern Hemisphere.

We prefer, instead, to see spring as sprung so soon as riders in the first of the European One-Day Classics roll over the start line.

Which they will be doing tomorrow in north-east Italy for the Giro del Friuli. Hooray!

This coming weekend, however, is of even greater interest, as all the winter-training big guns will be assembling in Siena for more gravelly fun and games. Don't worry, they haven't brought L'Eroica six months forward. You can still make it for the autumn.

The Monte Paschi Strade Bianche (formerly the Monte Paschi Eroica) will be having its fifth installment on Saturday.

It's been part of the UCI European Tour since 2007, and fairly faithfully follows the route used by L'Eroica participants every year.

150 hopefully mild weather miles, but more than a third consisting of what can reasonably be described as treacherous gravel tracks. A pro contract with one of the big teams is no guarantee that you won't come a road-rashed cropper like the vino-soused cycling culture enthusiasts who converge upon the region every October.

There are smooth sections, too, but most of them are very steep.