I first became aware of this event about 5 years ago and it has intrigued me ever since. I enjoy vintage bicycles and have a few, some of which might be ideal for a ride like this. I hope to participate in L’Eroica in 2012, so I have a year to prepare a bike and gather the neccessary items such as vintage cycling gear and clothing. For more on this unique event the story continues below.

First organized in 1997, L’Eroica is a “vintage” cycle rally held each October in the Tuscany region of Italy. Founder Giancarlo Brocci conceived this event initially to save the “strade bianche” or white gravel roads that are so characteristic of the Chianti region. He also wished to re-establish the traditions and ambiance of a by-gone era of cycling that seem to have been lost in modern cycling. L’Eroica is a race with four different courses up to 200 km in length, all of which begin and end in the village of Gaiole in Chianti. Tradition trumps competition in this event and there are a few unique rules to be followed. First and most important is that riders must participate on pre-1988 bicycles (Italian is best). Next, it is expected that you dress appropriately to your bicycle, and with perhaps the exception of helmets, modern equipment is frowned upon (no clipless pedals). Support is provided at rest stops but you will not find the sports drinks or Power Bars that you may be accustomed to. Instead you will be offered traditional refreshments to sustain you such as bread, cheese, salami and wine along with other local produce. Helping a fellow rider in distress is also expected of participants.

Although some of the course is paved, riders will also race through dust, mud and gravel, on climbs and descent’s which will test the ability of the cyclist. The views and surroundings are very scenic but conditions may be difficult and riders will have to endure a lot to finish the race. Riders who complete the long course and finish within time limits have earned the title of “Heroic” and are presented with a commemorative plate and a bottle of special edition L’Eroica Chianti Classico which is produced in the region.

For me the allure of this event is based in honoring tradition in cycling. The use of vintage bicycles totally eliminates the pretentiousness of riding the latest model and brings the sport back to its roots. Having the opportunity to participate with so many others who are like minded is a great bonus. To me it is a celebration which truly honors of what cycling is all about. An event like this also has much in common with randonneuring which adds to the appeal. Camaraderie, determination and physical accomplishment reign supreme over modern technology! All of these things together make L’Eroica an event worth participating in!

Check back for updates on my progress towards preparing a bike for the event.