Today is Strada Bianchi day. Once you have your Giro d’Italia creds you feel better, despite the fact that a colleague had organised them for you a week ago, it’s still a relief to hang that pink lanyard round your neck and stick those big lumps of sticky-back plastic on the hire car windscreen.

The Giro and the Tour are so different; creds at the Tour is a big, officious production but at the Giro, it’s so much more laid back – and the guy on the PC likes us, so we get free Giro laptop cases.

Strada Bianchi
We’re expected, press cards in order, but it’s still good to get the creds around your neck – until then, access to anyone and anything is difficult. Photo©Ed Hood

It was a red letter day, today; we met Richard Pestes of PezCyclingNews fame for the first time, along with the wife and children.

All too brief, but never mind – he’s smaller than I imagined and wirier, a fit looking dude.

Strada Bianchi
Ed and Martin meet The Pez! Photo©MrsPez

It’s a fact of modern life that you can build up quite close relationships by digital means, without ever meeting the other person.

‘Tutto Ill rosa della vita.’ – the line below the masthead in the Gazzetta dello Sport – ‘Everything in life is pink’ that’s not strictly true today, there’s a lot of grey about as we traverse flat urban landscape for kilometre after kilometre.

Today is all about the strade bianche, the ‘white roads.’

The gravel starts at 18.9 kilometres to go and lasts 13.9 K – of which 12.6 K is the Poggio Civitella, a climb with an average grade of 3.7% but rearing to 15 and 16% in parts and a total elevation of 470 metres, around 1,450 feet.

Strada Bianchi
We bump into Paolo Bettini on the race route, so stop and say hi, so Ed can reminisce about Paolo’s first six day in Grenoble a few years ago. Photo©Ed Hood

Front tubs of 25mm and rear rubber of 24mm at eight bar with gears of 39 x 21 or 23 will be the order of the day.

‘Super Mario’ Cipollini has ridden the climb for the Gazzetta and just in case we’ve forgotten, it reminds us that he holds the record number of stage wins for the Giro – 42.

Cipo’s faves?

Vino, Evans and Pippo – we’ll see.

I wrote all of that in the car, en route the strada bianche – to be honest it was one boring 200 kilometres from the start to the final climb.

We contrived to miss the short first section of dirt road but got back on track for the final climb.

Strada Bianchi
The Strada Bianchi road surface and gradient is horrendous, think mountainbike track on a bad day. Photo©Martin Williamson

We were unprepared for the strade bianche, we were thinking, ‘farm track’ – but it’s more like forestry track, twisting up through the trees on to the ridge, then running along the hill tops before reverting to tar and dropping into Montalcino.

Vino and Evans lead the charge, Garzelli, Cunego and a surprising Marco Pinotti were all there, too.

Strada Bianchi
Vino and Evans out in front. Photo©Martin Williamson

Martin and I both missed David Millar who boosted himself to a solid third, today.

Strada Bianchi
Nibali knows he’s having his last day in pink, for this year at least. Photo©Ed Hood

Wiggins too, was well to the fore but those eight minutes he dropped back in Holland are gone forever.

Is it a lottery?

You could say that, but like Billy Paul said; “Only the Strong Survive.”

Vino is riding very well this season with a Doyenne win and Evans is world champion – ’nuff said, really.

Strada Bianchi
Pippo in the start village, heading for signing on. Looks great, doesn’t he? Photo©Martin Williamson
Strada Bianchi
Towards the end of the stage, Pippo doesn’t look quite so cool. Photo©Martin Williamson

I pontificated about that on here before; but it’s bizarre that in a world where we’re obsessed with progress and bikes are made ever lighter and hi-tech, the races that capture the imagination involve parcours where the main factors are decent tyres, a good position and brute strength.

It was the usual long haul off the hill, even though we tucked in behind the convoy.

Passing through the finish we spotted riders from the HTC-Columbia team getting a rough wash down with bottles of mineral water before they boarded the bus – for all that carbon and sports science, sometimes it’s just like the old days.

Strada Bianchi
It’s not exactly glamorous. Photo©Martin Williamson

Mountain top finish the morn, ciao, ciao.