L’eroica is annual event, hosted every October in a picturesque town of the Chianti Italian winegrowing region called Gaiole. Full of vibrant colours and beautiful bikes of a bygone era, L’eroica, is, pure and simply a celebration of everything vintage cycling. First held back in 1997 with an enthuasiastic 97 people in attendance, this years’ edition saw 3200+ subscribers sign-up for event.
L’eroica has become so popular in recent years that the organisers have had to limit places on a first-come, first-served basis. That number is again limited to only foreign nationals (800 places under the age of 60). Needless to say the places go very, very quickly for what is now one of Europe’s hottest cycling events (this years’ was fully subscribed in only a matter of hours).
The event is centred around a series of rides of varying distances (38/75/135/205km) which take in some of the Chianti regions’ most picturesque vineyards, steep, steep hills and famous strada-bianchi; literally translated as ‘white road’ and a mixture of chalk, gravel and fine sand/dust, ruts and potholes (effectively vineyard service roads and predominantly used by agricultural traffic). A relaxing pootle around the Italian countryside on retro bikes it is not! Over 75% of the 135km I did was on strada-bianchi with any section of asphalt a very welcome return.
One other stipulation - all participants bikes must also follow a set of very strict and governed rules…
Your vintage bicycle must have all the following characteristics...
• road racing bicycle, built before 1987 (not cyclo cross or time trial bike);
• steel frame (the only aluminum frame bikes permitted are ALAN or VITUS with either screwed or glued joints);
• gear shift levers on the down tube of the frame (exceptionally, only pre-1980 bar-end gear shifts are allowed);
• pedals with toe clips and fitted straps (quick release pedals are not allowed, except Cinelli M71 pedals);
• the passage of brake cable outside the handlebars.
Me trusty stead for the ride was a late 70's Team Replica Flandria that I managed to pick up cheap from a flea market in Bruges. Full Campagnolo Neuvo–Record groupset, pre 1950's Brooks saddle but most importantly, 100% compliant with L'eroica's rules. In addition to the bike, participants are encouraged to also don period clothing, think wool jeresys and shorts, hairnet cycling helmets and leather shoes.
Whilst all the rides take place on the Sunday, Gaiole is awash with traders’ stalls, bikes, and memorabilia in situ from the Thursday onwards offering riders the oppertunity to pick up that last minute part for the ride, an authentic piece of memorablia or that elusive rare component. All professional sellers and thus parts comanded very high prices.
Feed stations like no other! An amazing selection of traditional local food and wine (when in Chianti…) were on offer at the numerous ‘Ristoro’ stops en route and always busy with riders taking a breather and refresh.
In all, L'eroica is an amazingly enthusisastic, well run event that attracts a dedicated and unwavering group of participants. A nice mix of theatre, bikes and some of the most challenging 'roads' you're ever likely to tackle on a road bike. Absolutely recommended!