The men’s and women’s editions of Strade Bianche are set to go ahead despite Siena and the area including many of the dirt road sections of the race going into lockdown after an increase in cases of the so-called ‘British’ and ‘Brazilian’ variants of the coronavirus.
Organisers RCS Sport confirmed the races are to be held on Saturday but explained there will be further restrictions on crowds at the start, finish, and along the race route.
“For now, the race is confirmed,” an RCS Sport spokesperson told Cyclingnews. “Even though Siena is now classified as ‘code red’, that has no impact on the race, only on the public. Of course, anything can happen with the virus, but at the moment we have not yet received any notice that the race cannot take place.”
Tuscany is currently a ‘zona arancione’ – an area on amber alert – after a gradual rise in cases across the region. However, local officials have announced that the province of Siena, which includes much of the route of the Strade Bianche races, would go into lockdown and become a ‘zona rossa’ for eight days from Monday due to a rapid rise in cases in the area.
There has been a 20 per cent rise in cases in the province of Siena in the last week, with the villages of Sarteano, Sinalunga, Chiusi and Monteroni d’Arbia hit hard. Local authorities have begun a series of extra testing and tracing to identify non-symptomatic cases of the virus.
Under Italian law, the declaration of a red zone means that all schools and non-essential shops are closed and people are ordered to stay at home. Travel is limited to the local community within the province. Essential travel is only allowed for work and health reasons. Bars and restaurants can only operate a takeaway service.
As per the updated UCI COVID-19 protocol, riders and team staff have to undergo a series of pre-race tests and daily medical monitoring.
Several riders and staff have tested positive before and during races since the pandemic began, but only those deemed to have had close contact with the people infected are stopped from racing.
Last March, Strade Bianche was one of the first races to be postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The race was postponed until August, when Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) won alone in Piazza del Campo di Siena after attacking with 13km to go.
The Belgian is set to make his 2021 road racing season at this year’s Strade Bianche after a recent altitude training camp at Mount Teide.
Classics and cyclo-cross rival Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) is also due to ride Strade Bianche as part of an Italian campaign in March. Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) makes his season debut after recovering from COVID-19, while world champion Julian Alaphilippe leads Deceuninck-QuickStep. Tadej Pogačar leads UAE Team Emirates and Tom Pidcock will continue his Classics campaign with Ineos Grenadiers.
Strade Bianche marks the start of the 2021 Women’s WorldTour, with 2020 winner Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) wearing number 1. Omloop Het Nieuwsblad winner Anna van der Breggen (SD Worx) is also on the entry list. Rain is forecast for this year’s races.