Strade Bianche is more than a race

Tuscany’s white roads give Letizia a chance to share Italy with her teammates

March 2, 2023

For the peloton, Strade Bianche is one of the hardest race days on the calendar.

With the gravel sectors virtually guaranteed to kick up white dust clouds, steep climbs, and aggressive race tactics, it has earned its reputation as a tough day in the saddle. But for Letizia Borghesi, the team’s sole Italian rider, Strade Bianche is more than a bike race. It’s an opportunity to share a piece of her heart with her teammates.

“I like that my teammates can experience Italy, Italian roads, Italian atmosphere, Italian food. It’s nice that I can help the team with the language because in some places in Italy people don’t speak English really well so it’s good to be able to speak Italian and to be able to help the team, like at dinner so they can have what they want. I really like it when the team comes to the Italian races.”

Letizia is from Trentino in Italy’s mountainous north, but Tuscany is special to her.

“Before I joined EF Education-TIBCO-SVB, I was on a small Italian team and it was based in Tuscany so I have good memories from Tuscany,” she says. “I really like the part of Tuscany where Strade Bianche is raced because I love the landscape there. There are many hills, a lot of gravel roads, a lot of green.”

While it’s tough to find a bad meal in Italy, some of Letizia’s favorite dishes are Tuscan.

“There’s a dessert called castagnaccio. It’s a cake made of chestnuts. There is another one that is called ribollita. It’s a stew made with bread but I don’t know all of the ingredients. You should search for it on Google. I know you’ll like it. Another one is bistecca alla Fiorentina. It’s meat, a steak, really thick and heavy. It can be a kilo. I really like Fiorentina, it might be one of my favorites.”

Given her love of all things Tuscan, it’s no surprise that she pays the region the highest praise she knows.

“After my home region of Trentino of course, Tuscany is one of my favorites places.”

"You arrive at the bottom of the final climb and you are completely dead already. Your legs are burning. You are empty from the hard race so the supporters are a key factor."

Letizia Borghesi

She may change her tune slightly come Saturday when she and the rest of the peloton are fighting for position, determined not to cede ground on any of the technical gravel sectors.

“For now, I’m excited but on the day of the race I will be a little bit nervous. I will try to enjoy the race, to enjoy the atmosphere, to enjoy the amazing scene of the race because it’s always special. I try to keep calm during the race because anything can happen in these situations.”

Letizia has missed competing in just one edition of the race since 2017. In fact, Strade Bianche was her first ever race as an elite rider.

“The first year, it was my first race as an elite and my first race of the season and it was really, really hard. I had been a junior before so there was a big difference in the level. It was also my first race of the year so I didn’t have my race legs. It was completely full gas from kilometer zero until I couldn’t keep up. It was crazy. I was not ready for this,” she laughs. “And then every year since, I’ve always done better. I think this race shows my growth and my progress as a rider.”

Luck hasn’t always been on Letizia’s side at Strade Bianche, but with Alison Jackson, Sara Poidevin, Lauren Stephens, Abi Smith, and Veronica Ewers riding alongside her, she has a good feeling about this Saturday. She’ll also have friends and family along the route, not to mention the countless fans lining the roads.

“The fans at Strade Bianche are really supportive and they scream a lot. I think this race in particular is where the crowd is more supportive than in other races. It will be amazing on Saturday to feel the race atmosphere.”

As the race approaches the finish line, the route will hit Via Santa Caterina, the final climb leading into Piazza del Campo. The square will be packed with passionate supporters — and the occasional tourist who wonders what they’ve stumbled into — but it’s the fans on that final climb that Letizia will be mentally thanking.

“You arrive at the bottom of the final climb and you are completely dead already. Your legs are burning. You are empty from the hard race so the supporters are a key factor. So many people cheering for you can give you a little bit more energy to push until the finish line. When you see this steep climb with a lot of people you know that it’s almost done so you can push a little bit more than your limit.”

In boca al lupo!


How to watch: GCN+ will live stream the race

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