What do we humans want from cycling? What drives us to stick with that most “antique” machine to have survived to modern times? And most importantly of all, aside from making an understandable general kind of use of bikes, we sometimes seem to want to step back in time with that faithful old companion.
The first of the Italian Cycling Classic events of the season, the “Strade Bianche,” feels almost like a reaffirmation of cycling’s genetic birthright and the reason for its invention: for humans to be able to move in step with nature. Quite openly in search of a still-unspoilt, more authentic habitat more in tune with the roots for which it was conceived in the first place.
So welcome to the 2018 Italian Cycling Classic season: it kicks off with the most southerly of the Great Northern Classics (the “Strade Bianche” or “White Roads” – over 30 per cent of the route is white gravel road – bordering on the heroic), before moving on to the Tirreno-Adriatico from 7 to 13 March (a “mini Giro” with the kind of huge showing of big names that would make the “big Tours” green with envy) and then, on the 17th, the “classic of classics,” the timeless Milan-Sanremo which, as always, acts as a great closing act for the season as a whole.
At that point there will be 50 days to go to the start of the Giro d’Italia. And once again this year, Enel will be on hand, painting the joy of the most popular event in Italian sporting history a glorious pink.
After the “Gran Fondo Strade Bianche” does the opening honours, the season broadens out once again in three different directions: March 3rd brings the race proper for professional cyclists (gruelling, unique and spellbinding at once with a finish-line in Siena’s legendary Piazza del Campo), which is preceded by the equally tough and fascinating women’s race. Then, the glorious Gran Fondo event for amateurs takes place on the 4th, giving non-professional cyclists the opportunity to relive the glory of the previous day and, most importantly of all, experience the natural beauty of Tuscany which feels like it was born to bewitch bike lovers of all kinds.
Cycling and beauty. Modernity and classicism. But to get back to that first question of what human beings are looking for from bikes…. Albert Einstein had one answer at least: “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you have to keep moving.”