CLIMBS: Monte Sante Marie (304m)
Pieve a Salti (309m)
A loop in the Crete Senesi and the Val d’Orcia on the strade bianche, the typical white gravel roads of Tuscany featured in L’Eroica
For a story in Vélo Magazine, we designed a loop on the famous strade bianche of Tuscany, south of Siena. The route covers sections of the Eroica and the Strade Bianche pro race as well as lesser known roads we discovered during past visits in the beautiful Val d’Orcia and Crete Senesi region. The result: 110km of which about 50 are on gravel.
You can ride this loop on a road bike or a vintage bike, Eroica style. We chose gravel bikes: 35mm tires and a 34x32 were just what we needed to enjoy the strade bianche.
The start and finish are located in Pienza, a hilltop town that is part of the UNESCO World Heritage list. The first gravel section comes near the village of Trequanda (km 15) as you enter the Crete Senesi: a lunar landscape characterized by a succession of gray hills topped by cypress trees. It can’t get more Tuscan than that.
Shortly after Asciano (km 30), you reach the Monte Sante Marie gravel section. It is now named after Fabian Cancellara, triple winner of the Strade Bianche pro race; for 11 km, short climbs up to 15% alternate with flat parts where Spartacus could unleash his power. The strade bianche are not easy terrain: they can be steep and they are often covered with stones and occasional patches of sand.
At km 62, you enter the sector of San Martino in Grania but opposite to the direction of the race. The steep climbs turn into tricky descents where disc brakes are appreciated. Monteroni d’Arbia is reached after 72km and is a good place to stop for a panino, a lemon soda and an espresso before two more gravel sections in Radi and Murlo and the medieval town of Buonconvento (km 95). You still have to master the last strada bianca in Pieve a Salti in order to get back to Pienza with almost 2’000m of climbing in your legs. Fortunately, you can enjoy the views on the beautiful Val d’Orcia, another UNESCO World Heritage site in Tuscany.
Apart from other cyclists, sheep, loud guard dogs and hunters in old Fiat Pandas, you won’t see a soul between the few towns you’ll cross on this loop. If you’re looking for an authentic strade bianche experience, this one is for you. For more on gravel biking, see the Strada dell'Assietta ride and Dan's story on the blog.
- There are cafes, restaurants and bakeries in Asciano, Casanova Pansarine, Monteroni d'Arbia and Buonconvento. Make sure you refuel there because the options are limited between towns.
- You can ride all year round in Tuscany as it rarely snows. However the best periods to enjoy the Strade Bianche are March to June and September to November.
- One day after the pros, you can participate in the Gran Fondo Strade Bianche. Info: http://gfstradebianche.it/en/
Tuscany at its best
Starting the Monte Sante Marie section of the Strade Bianche, now named after Fabian Cancellara
Tackling steep gradients on the Monte Sante Marie out of Asciano
Espresso macchiato time
One of a few creatures we met all day
Decision time on the course of the Eroica
The town of Pienza, start and finish of the loop
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