The Strade Bianche’s Classic Recipe

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Many famous bike races are over one hundred years old. Liège-Bastogne-Liège was first run in 1892. These events have developed legends and histories that go a long way to make the sport what it is today. But the Strade Bianche race this weekend can trace its history back to 2007 yet it feels like a classic.

With new races springing up around the world what can the instant success of this race tell us? Or is it dangerous to wallow in nostalgia?

What’s made this race such a success? It’s the same question as what makes the race a must watch this weekend: a quality field race over tough roads that provide stunning scenery before a majestic finish in Siena. The hilly route is selective and allows classics contenders to compete alongside a few hardy stage race specialists. It works well on TV and arguably better in the photos afterwards.

A man who has not been in Italy, is always conscious of an inferiority, from his not having seen what it is expected a man should see
Samuel Johnson

Johnson’s quote is valid today for cycling fans immersed in the mythology of the sport. Obviously unable to use the great Alpine passes that contribute to the Giro’s legend, the Strade Bianche exploits Italy’s rural connection. The hilltop towns, the cypress trees and other cues come straight from the tourist brochures and make this a region to ride whether in a race, a training camp or a touring holiday. Indeed one overlooked factor behind the success of the Strade Bianche is its organic growth. It grew out of the Eroica vintage gran fondo. Rather than being imposed from the top, it borrowed on an existing event and recognition, visit the region and all year round there are brown road signs that signal the route of L’Eroica.

Ancient roads, modern racing

The Eroica’s location is no coincidence either, much of Italy has sterrato gravel roads but the Eroica is run in Tuscany, a hotbed of Italian cycling which produces a disproportionate share of the country’s professionals and races. This provides a cultural root onto which a pro race can be grafted, something that can’t be done in many other countries.

Another reason for the race’s success is boring practicality. Central Italy typically offers mild weather in March and the offroad sections mean skills practice for the classics. It’s also held before Tirreno-Adriatico race so teams need only need fly in earlier. Plus the race is run by RCS which means money in both directions, the company may pay teams to start but others want to impress the Giro organisers in order to secure wildcard invitations. Finally it’s on TV meaning an extra draw for teams and sponsors.

Copycats?
Tro Bro Leon is a similar example but on a smaller scale. It’s probably the best race you might not have heard of. It began as an amateur race in the 1980s and exploits the ribins or ribinous in local dialect, these are gravel roads and farm tracks. Sounds familiar.

But it’s status is inferior to the Strade Bianche. Part of this is down to money but for me it comes after the cobbled classics so the anticipation is reduced. It’s only live on local TV and its location in Brittany means a long journey for some even if this is another hotbed of cycling. Plus there’s no historic finish. Still this is an exciting race that’s growing.

Does this mean a great race has to use tiny roads? If dirt roads become the norm then we take them for granted. There’s a risk of inflation here where competing races start to outbid each other for infernal roads and the sport becomes a circus. But the sport is concious of this, see how ASO and RCS use the pavé and strade bianche sparingly in their grand tours.

Copy and paste
What can a new race take from the success of the Strade Bianche?

  • exploit the local geography and use local features. A race on ordinary roads means an ordinary race, a bit like today’s GP Camaiore
  • borrow from the local history. The finish in the hilltop town Siena can be mimicked by arrivals next to local landmarks
  • organic growth that builds on existing events helps and patience is required to make it work, a three year plan is not long enough

Note that a new race can be anywhere. We might think of the Dubai Tour but it can equally mean the World Ports Classic in Belgium in “Old Europe” or one of those new races in Britain, Germany or the USA that steal the term “classic”. It’s almost as if a new race is ashamed to be new.

The race for nostalgia
But what if the retro aspect is a negative? Cycling often trades on its nostalgia and Italian cycling especially. But reviving images of the past and citing the names of old champions might excite senior citizens who can revisit their glory days but it only makes cycling look old fashioned.

A new race is great and if it doesn’t have heritage, it can find other means to exploit. It could be a giant prize pot to attract star riders or an investment in high quality TV production. The slot on the calendar for Dubai, Qatar and Oman works well because they form the early chapters of the classics season. Remember too that all the big races today were novel once upon a time and they represented modernity and embraced the future with the bicycle as a modern means of transport.

Change
But the sport doesn’t have to choose between a sepia past and a digital future. The Greeks told the tale of the ship of Theseus, where over the years the deck timbers were replaced, new oars were bought and so on. In time the whole boat had changed but it was still Theseus’s ship. The same goes for today’s races, the Milan-Sanremo has seen numerous course changes and the route of the Tour de France is increasingly designed for television audiences. Many races survive precisely because they change and adapt to the times.

Conclusion
The Strade Bianche is an instant success and has become a must-watch race that’s exciting and almost as prestigious as many a race from the nineteenth century. This weekend sees only the eighth edition take place but it feels like an established classic. Note that as much as it feels permanent it’s future is uncertain as RCS struggle to make their portfolio of races profitable. Past sponsor Montepaschi Siena, a bank, stopped sponsoring the event and if fans have embraced the race, it’s not yet imprinted in Italy’s collective sporting culture.

Its success is a lesson for all but it seems hard to replicate. Select geography, scenic roads and a rich history of cycling gives this race more than a head start over other new races. Other races could copy the formula but the risk is a stale replica, an instant risotto that won’t satisfy. Not every new race can or should look to the past. A new race in Dubai, Russia or Argentina cannot compete but it could learn and copy some aspects. But the Strade Bianche’s near-instant success and suitability seem almost unique and hard for everyone else to copy.

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{ 73 comments }

Scott March 6, 2014 at 2:11 pm

I reckon it’s because it stands out visually in the same way Paris-Roubaix does.
Instantly recognisable roads, like the cobbles. Iconic finish location, like the velodrome. Photos not only look awesome, but you can tell the race they’re from at a glance.
It’s different, it has it’s own character, but it doesn’t do anything actually new, so it fits right in.

Also, it’s got a cool name.

hoh March 6, 2014 at 3:46 pm

I suppose the thing for other race organisers of new races to take away:

i) A bottom-up approach to grow a race organic from amateur events (did Japan Cup follow this mode as well?). Asian & middle east countries with money should take special note here. There’s always the temptation to shower UCI with money and airborne into World Tour but that hardly ever make a race successful.

ii) A memorable route with special geographic features and stunning scenery.

iii) Exploit the calendar if you can (though it’s not entirely up to organisers as to where on the calendar should their race be placed). Make it convenient for teams and they will come to you.

The Inner Ring March 6, 2014 at 7:23 pm

All good points. Thinking about it more, if you start with a ride to appeal to locals in a scenic area then it will grow and grow. Thinking of recent sponsor, the SCP Gran Fondo, they ride in a very scenic part of China so it helps attract participants which makes the event bigger and maybe one day even the pros want to take part.

It’s the same for many other races in Europe, picking a good route in a scenic place is a fine way to start.

ShortsNL March 6, 2014 at 3:58 pm

Speaking of the names, it seems that nowadays any professional race that uses the word ‘classic’ in it’s name isn’t a classic at all.

World Ports Classic
Dutch Food Valley Classic
Ride London Surrey Classic
Vattenfall Cyclassics…..

I’ll give the exception to San Sebastian.

The Inner Ring March 6, 2014 at 7:25 pm

It’s odd, as if these new events are teenagers trying to order a beer in a bar and have to pretend to be old to be accepted.

cnicholl33 March 7, 2014 at 12:52 pm

It would be better to think of the word Classic is a Brand name. To most people with a vague understanding of cycling will see this as meaning a 1 day race, whereas something with tour in the title will mean a multi day or week long race. Monuments would be like a Grand slam event in tennis or a Major in golf (along with the Grand tours)

David March 6, 2014 at 4:02 pm

An example of a new race that did NOT follow this formula, unfortunately, is the new tour of Alberta. I don’t think they took advantage of the beautiful natural features in southern Alberta

Guy March 6, 2014 at 4:45 pm

One of the intentions of the organizers for Alberta was to ensure that the race was ‘taken to the people’ and got good local support from the start/finish towns, to keep communities engaged for future editions (which will hopefully be the case), so the more remote – but spectacular – scenery in the area got left out. Perhaps it highlights the difficulty of balancing media demands (pictures and vistas) with the practicalities of hosting a race with local communities and sponsors.

TheDude March 7, 2014 at 7:41 pm

How ’bout up North, eh? Maybe a stage through Fort McMurray and across the Peace River. :-)

chris March 9, 2014 at 4:38 am

one of the problems the Tour of Alberta had was the flooding that impacted the race route, particularly the day that was supposed to go through Canmore (i believe) and into the mountains. having spent a week and a half around there leading into the race for a pre-race training camp i know the beauty the area has to offer, but if the roads and bridges are washed out then there’s not much that can be done.

i’m confident that this year’s edition will showcase the beauty of the area a bit better.

Piers March 6, 2014 at 4:08 pm

Nice reference to the Ship of Theseus, though the more modern reference would be Trigger’s Broom

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ship_of_Theseus#Modern_day

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BUl6PooveJE

Dave March 6, 2014 at 10:06 pm

GRRRRRRR, you beat me to it, but at least it saved me trawling the web for a link!!!

NickV March 6, 2014 at 10:38 pm

Down under this story is usually told as Grandpa’s axe; 2 new heads and a half dozen replacement handles, but it’s still Grandpa’s axe…

max March 7, 2014 at 2:02 am

yep, I’m still riding the same bike as I was in 1991. Apart from the bits replaced when worn out…

Shawn March 6, 2014 at 4:25 pm

While from the perspectives of fans and racers this race is a great success, does it make money for RCS? (I hope so but I couldn’t help but wonder after reading this post and Andrew Hood’s piece in Velonews. http://bit.ly/MQsJ7v )

Sam March 6, 2014 at 4:43 pm

Nope – its believed that the Giro is the only profitable race in the RCS portfolio (just as the Tour is the only profitable race for ASO)

(I read that Velonews article, but I’m no wiser as to what the author wants to happen, apart from be-moaning the globalisation into China and the Middle East)

The Inner Ring March 6, 2014 at 7:18 pm

It’s hard to measure because the accounts for each race aren’t known but it’s said only the Giro is significantly profitable but it’s far from the Tour de France.

I saw Andrew Hood’s piece and enjoyed it – I think his point is that as much as the sport is trying to find new formulas, it should remember the prime assets its got right now and should play to its strengths.

plurien March 7, 2014 at 9:37 am

Hood made his point, but not in the way intended. Successful races in Gulf states can’t be ‘christened’. Dubai, Qatar, Oman,Langkawi etc don’t want to be involved in a quest for the ‘Holy Grail’.
May seem a bit hermaneutic, but if you’re involved in bringing your culture to new markets you must first be aware of their culture.

Good point Hood made about Germany, but it has more UCI events than GB…?
[GER 7, GBR 4, ESP 17, ITA 43, FRA lots, BEL, lots and so on]

Sam March 7, 2014 at 10:17 am

Hood seems to think that somehow the money is just going to appear to fund races in Europe, yet at the same time point out the dire economic situation in certain traditional heartlands.

NEWSFLASH, Hood, the Middle East and Chinese sponsors and generally such sources of new money have no interest in funding races in Europe. And very few new European sources of funding are stepping forward.

(and this is from someone who falls asleep trying to watch Qatar and this year Dubai, too)

TheDude March 7, 2014 at 7:44 pm

I always broaden my vocabulary reading INRNG. Had this one though. Spell correction for the nitpickers in the group.. Hermeneutic

Toe Strap March 6, 2014 at 5:02 pm

What do you mean the “ship of Theseus”?
Everyone knows the correct analogy is Triggers Broom!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BUl6PooveJE
(RIP Roger Lloyd-Park)

Peter March 6, 2014 at 5:51 pm

Magnificent.

othersteve March 6, 2014 at 11:15 pm

Thanks Toe Strap, we in the US get a bit lost on the UK humor references.
Degrees of separation I suppose

Mark March 6, 2014 at 5:27 pm

One feature that’s helped this event is the UCI’s willingness to allow the organizers to run it with smaller fields – this year, it’s 18 teams of 8 riders, or 144 racers. In past years it’s been even smaller. This sort of flexibility allows smaller events to experiment with formats that can increase safety, enliven racing, reduce costs, or create spectator interest. I think we’d benefit from more of this sort of format experimentation – a fun one to try would be Gerard Vroomen’s idea of having no team cars, just neutral support.

channel_zero March 6, 2014 at 5:34 pm

Ahhh, but Tro Bro Leon is available as a torrent, shortly after it is broadcast! And the production quality is good, with fewer cameras. Ideally, they get a little deeper field to improve the action.

This is a perfect example of how the Internet is globalizing sports entertainment. If the Tro Bro Leon organizer was smart, they would have a live Internet feed with sponsor segments, or even pay-per-view. I think the UCI would make some problem up to capture the broadcast rights so ASO and RCS remain in control.

BigSigh March 6, 2014 at 10:12 pm

I’m sure I saw TroBroLeon on British Eurosport last year – won by Francis Mourey – so the coverage does extend beyond just local TV but perhaps this was a first. Hopefully, it will be repeated again this year.

Perhaps its position in the calendar doesn’t help it attract a more star-studded line up but could it be re-positioned to make it a weekend of races in Brittany alongside the GP Plouay?

The Inner Ring March 6, 2014 at 10:26 pm

It’s got more coverage and worth looking out for on the day but I think the audience was in the hundreds of thousands and not the millions.

Interesting idea with Plouay, that could work. The GP Plouay has been looking at using these roads in recent years, I think last year’s edition did use a few off road sections but it didn’t define the race.

Jacques Breusse March 7, 2014 at 10:09 am

I believe it takes place the exact same day as Amstel Gold, so it has a disadvantage already in terms of coverage and importance for sponsors.

I watched past editions of Tro Bro Leon lately on YouTube after hearing about it. Fantastic race! I came upon it at just the right time – got fed up with discussion about doping, suspicions and the continuing reviving of the past – and it actually made me rediscover my passion for the sporting side of cycling.

I look forward to skipping Amstel Gold this year for Tro Bro Leon.

Rahul March 6, 2014 at 6:01 pm

I think the epic stage 7 of the 2010 Giro must have also helped to cement popularity of this race. One of the best days of (Grand Tour) racing I can remember.

The Inner Ring March 6, 2014 at 7:13 pm

I was agreeing with someone on Twitter about this same point, it was a great day’s racing that really helped to make the roads look good, even if the rain made it miserable for many participants.

Jacques Breusse March 7, 2014 at 10:14 am

Good point. I’ve noticed that every time the route for the next Giro is presented, the various analysis of the route in the media is always quick to address the presence/lack of ‘white roads’. The writers knows that the fans want it.

othersteve March 6, 2014 at 6:23 pm

Wonderful expose, “This provides a cultural root onto which a pro race can be grafted”.
Miss the local wine and cheese information. Sangiovese and ?

The Inner Ring March 6, 2014 at 7:15 pm

Probably pecorino but the sheep live further away on the mountains. I’ve been saving the food references for next week’s Paris-Nice where the route map for some stages reads more like a wine menu than a map.

polytrauma March 7, 2014 at 12:09 am

No need to save any food reference for later when Strade Bianche is coming up!

The Strade Bianche, this year, passes through two of Italy’s most famous wine growing regions: Chianti and Montalcino. Both are known for their red wine blends of Sangiovese variety (Chianti) or pure Sangiovese (Montalcino). The race passes by the city of Montalcino at km 87, home to the Brunello di Montalcino (Brunello is the local name for the Sangiovese grape) and the lesser Rosso di Montalcino. Brunello, one of Italy’s most prestigious wines, has a huge cellaring potential and shouldn’t be drunk too young (anything less than seven years old, depending on taste and vintage). While quality is unequivocally good to very good with exceptional wine to be found, market price doesn’t seem to reflect quality, so look out for knowledgeable buying advice if you’re new to the area. Spurned by the Brunello success, Rosso di Montalcino has been introduced to satisfy customer demand for the region’s wine without diluting the image of Brunello, however, most Rossi di Montalcino are, in my opinion, overpriced. – Chianti (about km 160 to finish) is probably the most frustrating of all Italian wine growing regions with wines ranging from the mediocre to the supurb and little labeling help to guide the consumer. But there can be few things more Tuscan than a bottle of Chianti accompanying a Tuscan meal in sight of the marvellous landscape and a bike race.

Foodwise think pecorino, yes, but don’t forget the Chianiana cattle bred in the Valdichiana (kms 120,5-136,5, sixth gravel sector and beyond), the ubiquitous and generally very fine olive oil, finocchiona sausage (from fennel-speiced pork) and panforte (a spicy almond and nut cake from Siena).

This (as always) excellent blog entry was about The Strade Bianche’s Classic Recipe. How about a Classic Strade Bianche Menu?

Start with bruschetti as appetizers, toasted Tuscan bread flavoured with garlic, olive oil and salt topped with tomatoes and basil; as a first course serve a crema di ceci (chickpea soup) followed by the Tuscan main course par excellence: bistecca fiorentina (a large, 1kg up, grilled steak of Chianiana cattle) and end on a sweet note with a buccellato con crema inglese (a dry cake served with so-called English cream). Accompany your meal with a good (€15) bottle of Chianti or a (€30 and up) Brunello. End with an espresso and a slice of panforte di Siena as the race arrives in the Medieval city.

Happy viewing and happy cooking!

Bundle March 7, 2014 at 8:27 am

Pici all’ aglione!

Bundle March 7, 2014 at 8:28 am

Sorry, I meant pici all’aglione! ;)

Larry T. March 6, 2014 at 6:29 pm

Cycling IS old-fashioned. That’s part of the appeal. How can you consider a two-wheeled thing that easily falls over and the driver has to PEDAL as anything BUT old-fashioned? I’m not sure of the purpose of the photo of the ghastly food product, are you trying to suggest “Instant Classic”? I think the best way to look at this race is Italy’s Paris-Roubaix. Yes, another race full of nostalgia. Much more interesting than “slopestyle halfpipe cross” and other made-for-TV “sports” filling the TV screens of the world. W Strade Bianche. We’ll be there riding l’Eroica this fall.

Matt March 6, 2014 at 7:05 pm

I interpreted the product as representing a modern “change” from the rice the producer is traditionally known for selling, rather than an example of an “instant classic” (although im yet to try it!)

The Inner Ring March 6, 2014 at 7:12 pm

The Strade Bianche is proper Tuscan cooking, it’s when you try to take rice, mushrooms, chicken and just add water that you get problems. The same if you tried to take the raw ingredients like dust, hills, some stars and just add money, it won’t work as well.

But if cycling is old fashioned, it’s got to bring in a younger audience, it’s working in the US, UK and Australia but not in the heart of Europe where it was once a modern sport.

othersteve March 6, 2014 at 11:21 pm

All very good, points especially in the US, were cycle racing viewers are among the highest net worth individuals who watch sports! According to (Velo news print edition)

Perhaps in Europe’s past cycle racing was viewed as a blue collar sport. Not so in the US..

The Inner Ring March 7, 2014 at 11:29 am

The largest audience demographic for bike races in Europe* is senior citizens and stay-at-home mothers. It makes sense, they can watch Paris-Nice or the Tour of the Basque Country live when everyone else is working.

* we should be careful of references to Europe. In audience terms here we’re talking France, Italy, Belgium, Netherlands and maybe Spain, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Denmark. But not Europe’s largest country Germany nor Britain and others.

Sam March 7, 2014 at 1:14 pm

There was a good discussion about this at the Cycling Anthology live audience a couple of nights ago. Daniel Friebe took Italy as an example. In the past Italy has had a predominantly working class population who could related to riders from the very same class and upbringing as themselves, who they could envisage working in the factories with them or as labourers alongside them, and so could relate to the riders trying to escape from that and live their dreams. Perhaps the fans were living out their dreams via the riders.

But now Italy has a much greater middle class population, who can’t make this same connection to the riders, many of whom are from middle class backgrounds themselves these days. The Italian newspapers sports pages are dominated by highly paid footballers, with the flash cars and the girls – and thats what the kids are growing up seeing and being fed via news inc TV – and so this is what they’re growing up wanting to aspire to. And cycling becomes less and less appealing to them.

So we have a situation now where the Italian fans you’ll mainly see watching Italian races and at the finish, are men over 50. And the Italian grassroots interest in cycling as a spectator sport is dying.

The Inner Ring March 7, 2014 at 1:46 pm

I hope the discussion was recorded and goes online, it’s good listening usually.

L’Equipe is saying the same thing too in a big feature on Italian cycling. Right now Nibali just can’t cut through and become a popular figure, he needs more wins but more personality too. It’s not meant as a criticism, just an observation that he has to compete with others in the Italian media from soccer players to Moto GP riders.

Larry T. March 7, 2014 at 1:14 am

Excellent piece about this subject here. I couldn’t agree with Andrew Hood more!
http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/03/news/analysis-strade-bianche-roma-maxima-deliver-cycling-needs_318910

Alex March 6, 2014 at 7:33 pm

The point about exploiting local geography is one that I always come back to every time I see mention of the RideLondon ‘classic’. Cycling’s popularity is booming in the UK and there’s real potential for a fantastic one-day race, but this is not it. It’s a dull, contrived route that comes about because they’re working to your second maxim ‘borrow from the local history’.

It’s a striking finish, but that’s all and I really feel there’s potential for a great one-day race in the UK. You’ll see this when the Tour goes through Yorkshire and the Peak District. This is the kind of terrain where they should be racing, even if it’s not within 50 miles of the capital.

If I were to make use of your third piece of advice – ‘organic growth that builds on existing events’ – I’d suggest something based on The Fred Whitton Challenge up in the Lake District. It’s well-known amongst British cyclists for how gruelling it is.

http://www.fredwhittonchallenge.co.uk/

Diecast March 6, 2014 at 9:02 pm

The UK already has a great one day “classic” complete with history and unique features… The awesome Lincoln Grand Prix, celebrating it’s 60th edition next year – and also doubling up as the British National champs.

Tovarishch March 7, 2014 at 7:34 am

And don’t forget the Rutland-Melton Cicle classic. Dirt roads, fantastic scenery and the chance to sample pork pie, Stilton cheese and ‘Paint the town red’ at the finish!

Alex March 7, 2014 at 11:13 am

A wheel of stilton would be an appropriate gift for whoever stands atop the podium. Why should the French have all the cycle-race-victory-cheese-distributing fun?

Wastrel March 6, 2014 at 9:08 pm

Even in the southeast you could make a really good parcours if you wanted – the weald and the downs both have a big number of short but steep hills, on winding roads.

Wastrel March 6, 2014 at 9:43 pm

But yes, would be fascinating to see a Whittonesque race (we had a little glimpse last year with Quintana going over Honister). But apparently the conditions aren’t doable for all the support circus paraphanalia, people say – you don’t really want to have to drive too many big vehicles over Hardknott and Wrynose… some of the descents could be pretty nasty. And cattle grids.

But yeah. Wonderful scenery, at least six climbs that go over 20%, and a high chance of rain and/or high winds.

Alex March 7, 2014 at 11:20 am

Yeah, I guess many of the roads used in the Fred Whitton would make life tough. But it’s more the principle. Like you say, there’s potentially a better race in the south-east even.

BigSigh March 6, 2014 at 10:18 pm

I heard Gary Verity on the most recent Humans Invent podcast talking about a 3 day, Criterium International style event in Yorkshire, beginning 2015, to build on this year’s Grand Depart. I gather this is being done with the backing of ASO but I might have misunderstood that bit.

Chris James March 7, 2014 at 10:27 am

This was how it was reported in the Guardian. It sounded like discssions were ongoing.

http://www.theguardian.com/sport/2014/jan/09/yorkshire-cycling-race-legacy-british-tour-de-france-success

Alex March 7, 2014 at 11:22 am

I saw that article and I really hope it comes to something. I reckon stage two of the Tour should show what the nation has to offer when it comes to unpredictable, hilly bike racing and hopefully that will provide the impetus.

Steven L March 12, 2014 at 9:05 pm

Wait for May, and Stage 2 of the Giro d’Italia. It’s taking in Northern Ireland’s most stunning scenery from the Causeway down. If it wasn’t for the fact that there are 2 seperate Cycling bodies in Britain and Ireland, this would be widely popular for stage racing in the UK

Darren March 6, 2014 at 8:31 pm

There has been a tv show on lately in Belgium where two celebrities, Tom Waes and Koen Wouters take on a series of challenges against each other. One episode had them ‘racing’ against each other over a distance of more than 400km through France, and they had to ride vintage bikes, wear vintage-style clothing, and so on, while following the old rules. During the show they mentioned who had built these bikes and since then the builder has been swamped with requests from people who want to buy one of those vintage bikes.
There is a word for such people: nostalgist! And there seems to be no shortage of such people!
Have credit card, will travel into the past!

channel_zero March 6, 2014 at 10:52 pm

I could see it. Someone who could build a proper vintage bike would be, by far, the easiest way into L’Eroica. There are more of these vintage events popping up worldwide too!

The Inner Ring March 7, 2014 at 11:31 am

Watch the Giro on local TV and the pre-race coverage is all archive footage and tales of the past. Watch the Tour and the post-race coverage has plenty of retro pieces too, often at the expense of what happened in the day. There’s plenty of analysis of the past 50 years but not the past 5 hours. It appeals to the senior demographic watching.

Paddy Dunne March 6, 2014 at 11:03 pm

Check out Jered Grubers pictures from 2013 Tro Bro Leon, ruddy outstanding. Rode on the Saturday on the riblain and loved every windswept minute of it and it tipped down! I could see a really great one day race in the South West. Bugger the capital, watching the way Tof Br has evolved the crowds down thic way are every much as big as what they get in Surrey/London stages. Go to the heartland and the racing will thrive. Round yer Padd’s axe has had 3 new handles and a new double-bit head. but its still the old fellas axe

Steppings March 6, 2014 at 11:13 pm

What’s made this race such a success, I think the first picture says it all/

Mike March 6, 2014 at 11:42 pm

It will be interesting to chart the progress of the reinvigorated Giro Del Lazio, Roma Maxima. It too has beautiful scenery, cool roads with a few cobbles, and a very historic finish!

Alpen March 7, 2014 at 6:13 am

L’Ardechoise is going a similar route as the Strada Bianchi, big amateur following giving birth to a pro race. Pity the organisation isn’t at the level of RCS, it’d be interesting to see ASO take it over…

The Inner Ring March 7, 2014 at 11:33 am

The last weekend’s races in the area were very good, especially with the finish in Valence. It lacks a little local touch though, maybe the winner wins their weight in chestnut paste or some other local product.

lee kaliski March 7, 2014 at 9:32 am

if its strada bianchi and “wallow in nostalgia”, or “global modernisation” and the tour of Beijing then I for one am happy to wallow in the Luddite camp thanks very much! :-)

BC March 7, 2014 at 9:41 am

What makes a good event ? There are numerous requirements depending on the audience. I would suggest a battle royal, where men can be seen to give of their best and more, over interesting terrain. These types of events in the main have grown over the years and often have a strong local identity in every sense. A little history also helps. There are many such events all over Europe. What many of them fail to achieve is sponsorship levels or organizational abilities which would allow them to get decent coverage on a National or International level. If you have ever watched the Haut Var or the Tro Bro Leon, both of which have been mentioned, and have received limited International coverage at times, you will get the picture.

It appears a general rule that throwing lots of money at a newly dreamed up event and expecting success rarely works – how long lived the Ride London Classic, World ports Classic etc. ?

Sam March 7, 2014 at 10:22 am

Well, Prudential are committed to sponsoring the Ride London race for another 2 years – and no one can knock the amount of spectators out on the roadside. And running the sportive beforehand , the women’s race on the Friday night, plus all the cycling events in central London on that Sat, all helps to make Ride London much more than ‘just’ a single race.

Jon L March 7, 2014 at 11:32 am

Another great article.

Strade Bianche certainly captures the imagination, but if all new races copied the parcours, they wouldn’t have the same success, as you point out.

I think for new races identity is key, not a carbon copy of what already exists, but exploiting as you say the geography and natural surroundings, added with the local culture.

Scheduling is key also and as you point out Strade Bianche has benefited here. With several races disappearing (GP Miguel Indurain potentially the latest) there is space for new events.

On the UK scene there is a race similar to Tro Bro Leon and Strade Bianche, it’s called the Rutland–Melton International CiCLE Classic, it’s a UCI 1.2 race and only a couple of years older than Strade Bianche.

BC March 7, 2014 at 12:03 pm

Two years sponsorship does not an event make – doesn’t the Prudential have history in being associated with short lived cycling sponsorship in the past !

Whilst all the points you make about the Ride London Classic and its many supporting events are valid. The overall structure, other than the central London finish, does not provide much in the way of suspense, challenge or excitement, other than too already committed cyclists. An event based on one of the worlds major capitals must be capable of providing more originality. Even the London marathon manages to find a few stones to spice up the drama of their event. Although I don’t live in the UK, I understand from friends living in suburban areas and Surrey that it, together with its associated sportive, are not the most popular of events with the natives !

Politics and money are not always the key to long term success. The event itself needs to grab the attention, excitement, enthusiasm, wonder and imagination of those watching.

Sam March 7, 2014 at 4:43 pm

The amount of spectators out on the road was pretty impressive – something that shows that it did capture the imagination by the roadside. Something that cannot be said for a lot of established races.

Sam March 7, 2014 at 4:50 pm

BTW I do live in the UK. In fact I ride the very same roads as the race route. The race organisers are making a change to this year’s race to re-route a particular section thats a bit contentious. Some Surrey residents are unhappy about the number of events including running events and triathletes – but its worth noting that the the number of signatures on an anti-petition was far outstripped by the number on a pro-petition…

UHJ March 7, 2014 at 12:11 pm

Oh!
We do the same in DK – or rather did; the race dwindled into a sportive being the latest edition unfortunately. The money ran out but the people are still working to bring the race back. Quoting Jørgen Leth’s Sunday in Hell it was nicknamed (my translation) “Springday in the moor”
The vido is actually on the Team Designa but it has some good racing footage too: http://www.tvsyd.dk/artikel/68036?autoplay=1&video_id=30241

Uli March 7, 2014 at 1:12 pm

Just a small correction: Strade Bianche is not a granfondo because it’s not a timed competition. This kind of event is called “cicloturismo”. A couple of granfondos have tried to embrace the strade bianche, most notably La Magnifica (which hopefully massively improves its organization). The other one – La Sterrata – only had two editions with its last one in 2012.

Mathew Mitchell March 7, 2014 at 3:54 pm

Looking forward to this race….surely it’s a Sagan/Cancellara battle with everyone else clinging to their coat-tails!

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