Ride Report: Gran Fondo Strade Bianche

Posted By Gravel Union On 30 September 2021

He was never able to enter the race in his time as a pro, so Shimano Gravel Alliance rider Flo Nowak grabbed the chance to ride in the Gran Fondo Strada Bianche instead.

Image courtesy of Sportful/GF Strade Bianche

The Strade Bianche is arguably the most famous race that takes place on gravel roads in the pro peloton. But it’s not just the pros who can take part. For every fan of cycling, the organisation also offers the Gran Fondo Strade Bianche, which follows most of the route of the pro race. The 2021 edition had been delayed due to world events and so was run in September, rather than its normal calendar slot in March. I never got the chance to take part in the race when I was riding as a pro, but it had been on my bucket list for a long time.

Image courtesy of Sportful/GF Strade Bianche

Finally this year I got the chance to race on the beautiful white roads around Siena with 5000 other cycling fans. Besides the full Gran Fondo route, which was 140 kilometers long and included 30 kilometers of natural gravel roads, there is also a Medio Fondo which was 90 kilometers long and included 20 kilometers of riding on gravel. You might expect the gravel sectors to be easy, but they are definitely not! A lot of climbing needed to be done. And what goes up must come down, so you also have some technical descents to contend with as well.

Image courtesy of Sportful/GF Strade Bianche

The pros take part in the race on their standard road race bikes that are normally equipped with 28-30mm tyres. But, to have a little bit more comfort and a wider range of gears while still running smoothly on the asphalt sections, I choose my Scott Addict gravel bike, which was fitted with Shimano GRX Di2 components and 32mm wide tyres.

Image courtesy of Sportful/GF Strade Bianche

As you might expect, even though the event was a Gran Fondo rather than an official race, the pace in the Strada Bianche was super high. In the beginning I stayed with the leading group and followed them on to the first two gravel sectors. But, as the area offered some amazing views and the feed stations were stocked with lots of regional culinary delights, I made sure that I actually enjoyed taking part in the event, so I stopped from time to time to admire the views and also to sample the hospitality of the event organisers.

Image courtesy of Sportful/GF Strade Bianche

It was such a special day, riding on gravel roads that I knew only from having seen them on television. We were super lucky and had perfect weather conditions when I rode, but I would also love to come back and ride the event again in the spring when it is normally hosted.

Image courtesy of Sportful/GF Strade Bianche

The feeling riding up the last steep kilometer to Piazza del Campo in Sienna was just amazing and all the spectators cheering gave me goosebumps. Now I can also understand why even some of the pro riders needed to push their bike up there from time to time – its way tougher than it looks on the TV. Luckily, I managed to stay on my bike this time and hopefully next time, I will do even better.
Let's Get United!
Join Gravel Union now 🀟

Cookie preferences

Functional. Necessary for the website to function.

Analytical. To keep track of the number of visitors.

Tracking. To give you the best possible experience, to improve the website, to show you relevant information and advertisements, and for social media. Enable