2023 Strade Bianche Men Preview

Siena > Siena 183.7km

The white roads of Siena are calling. Unfortunately, what was meant to be the first big showdown between Pogačar, Van Aert, van der Poel and Alaphilippe isn’t going to happen, Pogačar’s off to Paris-Nice and Van Aert is waiting for Tirreno before starting his season. I can’t help but be disappointed, but we’ve still got van der Poel, Alaphilippe and Pidcock. Fingers crossed, it’s an epic day.


Sunny and temperatures will be around 12 degrees. There’s not much wind either. Perfect conditions for the race.

Key Points

The route remains the same as usual, there is a slight change on the road back to Siena, but it doesn’t really matter. The nice weather will be welcomed by all riders, the recent period of cold hasn’t been nice for them. Where the race explodes is always hard to predict, but there should be a selection made on sectors 5 and 6. They come in quick succession and amount to almost 20km of dirt road, but the main players normally wait until sector 8 before attacking.

Monte Sante Maria starts with around 54km left in the race. It opens with a steep climb and its full gas from that point onwards. After the sector is finished there’s around 20km on normal roads, this is a dangerous point in the race, teams with numbers will always look to get someone up the road.

Monteaperti is the next sector, short but features a punchy climb.

Then it’s Colle Pinzuto, where Tiesj made his big move back in 2018.

The final sector gives a wonderful chance for the best climber to drop everyone else, thanks to the brutally steep climb at the end. From the crest there’s 12km to go.


One of the most beautiful finishes in cycling. Hopefully the race is still altogether for the final kilometre.


After dominating the opening weekend, all eyes will be on Jumbo-Visma, but it’s going to be hard for them to dominate this race. They don’t have the same strength in depth compared to last weekend, but as they are one of the few teams who seem to think carefully about tactics, I still expect them to try something. If you wait for van der Poel to do his thing, you are going to lose. Teams must try and anticipate this and get ahead of the race. 

Who has the depth to do this? Looking at the start list, I don’t think anyone has the team required to disrupt Alpecin, in fact, they look like the strongest team to me. They might not have big names, but they have very solid riders who go well on this terrain. Gaze is a former mountain biker, Vermeersch is the gravel world champion, Gogl always goes well here and Riesebeek won Dwars door het Hageland last year. Alpecin arrive with a strong team and the overwhelming favourite in van der Poel. 

However, this season has already shown that teams are not happy to simply roll round, they want to animate the race. UAE and Jumbo-Visma are the most likely to try something different, as they have multiple options for the win. Going long, could well work, it depends on how the Alpecin domestiques are getting on. It’s a risky tactic as it’s all or nothing, but I would hope guys like Valter and Formolo will be up for taking the race to van der Poel. One thing to remember is that despite sticking with the same route every year, the winning scenario always seems to be different. For me, it’s what helps makes this a brilliant race to watch.

To sum up, a few teams will attack and try to go long, but Alpecin will have the men to cover the race and ensure it’s all together for the final sectors. Then we’ll see who’s the strongest.


Mathieu van der Poel – took a brilliant win here in 2021, his final attack lives long in my memory. This is his first road race of the year, it’s one month since he won the CX world championship. I assume he’ll already be in form, but it’s not a certainty. That little question mark will be there until deep into the race, it’s not certain he’ll win, but he is the favourite. 

Julian Alaphilippe – took an excellent win in the Ardèche, that should have given him a big confidence boost. Last year wasn’t his best, an early win in 2023 is exactly what the doctor ordered. Julian is a confidence rider, having a good state of mind gives his legs a massive boost. He won this race back in 2019 but van der Poel put him to the sword in 2021. He knows he can’t for him to attack in the final kilometre, Julian needs to take the race to the big man. Winning isn’t going to be easy, but I want to see Alaphilippe go down swinging.

Tom Pidcock – a rider I find hard to work out. I was disappointed with his performance in Omloop, but his team did let him down, he was all alone for far too long. As a brilliant mountain biker, and cross rider, this is an excellent race for Pidcock. Not only can he use the climbs to his advantage, but he can also use the descents. Downhill sectors are a nightmare for most of the bunch, but it’s where Pidcock can make a difference. With racing in his legs, he’s got a chance of taking the win.

Quinn Simmons – loves racing on the gravel and I believe that he’ll win this race at some point in his career. After taking a win in San Juan, he kicked off his European season in France last weekend, finishing 5th in the Drôme Classic. With all eyes on the three riders already mentioned, Simmons is the type of guy who could upset the odds. 

Tim Wellens – form is coming along very nicely. He was very impressive in the opening weekend and should be on course for a good result here. He was 3rd here way back in 2017, the podium is a realistic ambition for him.

Aleksandr Vlasov – I’m looking forward to seeing how he goes in this race. Vlasov was one of the sensations of 2022, he made a huge amount of progress across the board. He started this year in Valenciana, and he was good, but not great. With that race in his legs, and another period of training, he should be approaching top form. I think he could go top 5 on a good day.

Matej Mohorič – another rider who impressed in the opening weekend. He was one of many riders who had to DNF last year, he’ll be hoping for better luck this time round. As he’s an exceptional bike handler, this should be a good race for him, he’s one who should be finishing somewhere in the top 10.

Valentin Madouas – after finishing 3rd in Flanders, this race should be one he enjoys. Madouas is a great rider, very punchy and not frightened to attack. He got sick in the Algarve, hopefully that was only a couple of days off the bike, and he’s been able to prepare well for this race.

Tiesj Benoot – confidence will be sky high after a brilliant win in Kuurne. To be honest, after his bad crash in 2022, I wasn’t expecting Tiesj to already be at this level. He won here back in 2018, thanks to a brave attack from distance. Without Van Aert, Jumbo-Visma will look to him, and he knows his best chance is to try and open the race early.

Attila Valter – 4th here last year was a surprising result, he’ll provide Jumbo-Visma with an excellent second option. He started his season in Gran Camiño, riding well in the service of Vingegaard. Bettering last year’s result will take a huge ride, hopefully he can go well in his first race as a protected rider for his new team.

Ruben Guerreiro – can be a little inconsistent, but on his day, he’s a very strong rider. He’s got an outside shot at a top 10.

Prediction Time

Embed from Getty Images

He’s the overwhelming favourite for a reason, it’s a win for Mathieu van der Poel.