Just a few days ago the photography team of Ashley and Jered Gruber (Gruber Images) were frantically packing up and leaving their home in Athens, Georgia headed for Spain. From there, they drove 12 hours to their basecamp in Italy, slept 12 hours and then headed to the white roads of Tuscany for some Strade Bianche recon. The two have a knack for getting around courses as we’ve seen in the past with tricky race routes like Milan-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix. Somehow, some way they always get to the right spots.
If you remember from previous editions of Strade Bianche one of them (not sure who) was perched high above the finish line in Siena and shot the winner from behind making for an iconic image and completely different than the traditional finish line shot. No doubt we can expect more great images from the two of them this weekend. I have known and worked with the Gruber’s for nearly 15 years and I can tell you that they remain humble about their collective skills and ability to capture the moment. But, as we’ve seen over and over in the pages of Peloton magazine for 100 issues, they always pull off unforgettable images. I think their humility fuels them to treat every race or shot as if they are starting from the beginning again. Once they get into the frenetic rhythm of the chase whether in Belgium, Italy or any other location for that matter, the humility melts away and is quickly replaced by creative energy.
Through text I asked both Ashley and Jered if they have seen anything interesting at Strade Bianche. Jered, who is an incredible bike rider and former racer noticed that Greg van Avermaet (GVA) switched from tubular to tubeless wheels just before setting out on recon with his team. From what Jered could tell, GVA was the only one running tubeless. Also of interest was Alejandro Valverde’s non-standard SRAM chainring and Jered (who has a slight shoe fetish) was intrigued by Tim Wellens’s shoes.
Conditions for the outing was dry and dusty but there is a chance of rain tomorrow and perhaps Saturday morning. Jered seems to think conditions should be okay but of course it depends on how heavy the rain is over the next few days. It might get sloppy which could make tire selection a bit interesting come Saturday.
Who is going to win?
Jered’s picks for the men’s race is Julian Alaphilippe, but says don’t count out the usual suspects Mathieu van der Poel and Wout van Aert. The “wildcard”, he believes, is Tom Pidcock who has been real strong so far and had an incredible cyclocross season. On the women’s side the Gruber’s are gambling and are not picking Annemiek van Vleuten or Anna van der Breggen but instead Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig or Katarzyna “Kasia” Niewiadoma for the top spot. Both solid choices!
Editor-at-large and media legend John Wilcockson is going with Julian Alaphilippe on the men’s side and Anna van der Breggen for the women’s race. Both hare safe bets and both have been strong so far this campaign. Both are safe choices and it is highly likely both will be on the podium if not the top step.