The best events in cycling are the 5 monuments and they are famous for having their own appeal and characteristics. The Tour of Flanders and Paris – Roubaix have the cobbles. Liege Bastogne Liege has the tradition and editions with terrible weather. Milan Sanremo is the race to the sea and is the longest on the pro race calendar. Lombardia is the season closer and the race of the falling leaves.
Not technically a Monument but a worthy addition to this illustrious list is Strade Bianche. The name literally means “white roads” and comes from the white gravel roads of the Tuscana region in Italy. The popularity of the race has come at the same time as the advent of gravel bikes. We all have one and this is the ideal location to actually go and use it where it’s useful.
Both the start and the finish of the race and the Gran Fondo are in Siena. This historic town has beautiful historic architecture. Here, it feels as if time has stopped in the 13th century, when the city’s artistic and architectural heritage started to develop, earning Siena its endless renown. It has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1995, owing to its well-preserved mediaeval structure.
The main square, Piazza del Campo, is the epicentre of the city. The square has a unique shell shape, and gently slopes towards the centre. This is where the famous Palio takes place: every year, in summer, the different Contrade (city quarters) challenge each other in a compelling horse race.
Surrounding the square is a number of monumental buildings, such as Palazzo Sansedoni and Palazzo Pubblico. Towering over the square is the majestic Torre del Mangia, built in the 1340s. Soaring an impressive 102 metres, it is just as tall as the Duomo belfry, to symbolize the balance between worldly and divine power. But there is more to Siena than just Piazza del Campo, including little streets and alleys teeming with little shops and craft stores where you can buy local handmade products or taste the famous cantucci cookies with a glass of Vin Santo. Throughout the narrow alleys, all the way to the wide Piazza del Campo, you can actually feel the real atmosphere of this city – contemporary yet ancient, monumental yet lively.