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A taste of Strade Bianche in the Rapolano Terme stage, including the Bagnaia sector

24/04/2024

Sterrato, as the Italians call it, has meant spectacle ever since it first made its appearance in professional cycling. Whenever included in a Grand Tour, it has invariably delivered uncertainty, pitfalls and attacks all the way to the last metre. The 2024 Giro d’Italia will feature its own stretches of gravel roads in stage number 6, which will take the riders from the seaside resort of Viareggio, more precisely Villa Puccini (celebrating the 100th anniversary of the death of composer Giacomo Puccini) to Rapolano Terme for 180 km.

As usual, the gravel stage is dreaded, especially by the main GC athletes, due to the likelihood of punctures, mechanical problems and crashes, which, if occurring at the wrong time, might well jeopardize the rest of their competition. In a nutshell, this stage has the potential to be decisive.

The racecourse is largely the same as that of the Strade Bianche, covering the area surrounding Siena and the Crete Senesi, but with much fewer white roads of course, namely 11.6 kilometres in total, divided into three sectors. Not a lot one might say, but being all packed into the last 50 kilometres, surprises might occur both in terms of stage victory and GC changes.

 

The first 70 km are as flat as a curling rink, but after the ascent of Volterra, the pink caravan will head into a familiar territory for cycling lovers, a hilly Tuscan area with no room to rest. The first two gravel sections are an old acquaintance of the Strade Bianche, that of Vidritta (4.4 km long) and that of Bagnaia (4.8 km), to be tackled in quick succession with 40 km to go.

The Bagnaia sector in particular might be rather tricky, if only because it is uphill for around 3200 metres, with gradients that touch 10% and could tickle the fancy of some attackers. Then, with 16 km to go, the riders will tackle the unprecedented white sector of Pievina (2.4 km) – followed by an intermediate sprint – before the 8 km false flat all the way to the grand finale and the finish line in Rapolano Terme, preceded by a wall at 20% at 4 km to go. This stage could smile on a wide range of riders, from Classics hunters to passer-climbers, from sprinters who might hold the wheel to early breakaways.

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