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Strade Bianche to name sector for Cancellara — if he wins

MILAN (VN) — Strade Bianche, this Saturday celebrating 10 years of racing through Siena’s hillsides on white gravel roads, is naming sectors after its champions and pushing for WorldTour status.

If Fabian Cancellara (Trek – Segafredo) conquers the one-day Tuscan race again, organizer RCS Sport said that it will name sector six, east of Siena, after him. It will do so with every three-time winner in the years to come. The Swiss classics specialist, three-time victor in both the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, is the only cyclist so far to win twice, in 2008 and 2012.

“It’s a marketing move for us and Siena, like you’ve seen done on climbs such as Alpe d’Huez,” RCS Sports cycling director Mauro Vegni told VeloNews.

“The plan would be to put his name on the sector through Torre a Castello, an 11.5-kilometer sector, and continue to do so on the others sectors with everyone who wins three times.”

This year’s 176-kilometer men’s race begins and ends in Siena, including nine sectors or 52.8 kilometers on the region’s famous rolling white gravel roads or “strade bianche.” Amateurs flock to the roads every year for the Eroica cyclo-sportive and religious folk visit the site where Saint Francis made peace with the animals.

In 2007, RCS Sport took inspiration from Eroica to create its own hard man’s classic that’s a mix of Flanders and Roubaix. Each year, the course varies slightly but always finishes on the 16 percent pitches leading to the heart of Siena. Classics specialist and former cyclocross world champion Zdenek Stybar (Etixx – Quick-Step) won in 2015 in the Piazza del Campo, where the twice-yearly Palio horse races run.

RCS Sport will run a women’s race, the first WorldTour event ever, and a cyclo-sportive as well on Saturday.

“The Siena zone protects the roads as an asset, so they aren’t going away. There are many sectors out there that we could use, each year we look for the right mix and dose them out with care in the race,” Vegni said.

“We are happy with how this race is growing. Above all, its TV coverage has expanded in a short time. For 2016, 160 countries are buying images from this race. It’s a great event for the area. The helicopter shots show off of the product: Italy, Tuscany, the hills, the vineyards, and gravel roads.”

RCS Sport is convinced enough with the race that it asked for it to be included in the WorldTour for 2017. Vegni explained that it is one of the 21 races on the UCI’s list asking for the top-level status. For now, however, he must concentrate on directing Saturday’s race.

“You could go to Colle Pinzuto and spend the day watching cyclists pass in sector eight,” Vegni added. “If I had a free day, I’d sit in Piazza del Campo, one of the most beautiful and known squares in Italy.”