If you have not followed the lead up to this event then you should read the posts prior to this one first. It is written assuming some knowledge of L’Eroica and the reader may not appreciate this post without that understanding. The reason for this follow-up post is to share a couple of additional photo’s from the event and also to provide a few of my conclusions about the event now that I have had some time to reflect on it. First, let me say that L’Eroica was one of the standout events in all of my years of cycling.  The premise and tradition of this event make it unlike any other I have experienced and there is not an event like it in the US. It also ranks as among the hardest rides I have done. The passion for cycling as demonstrated in this event makes it clear to me that Italians live and breath cycling like no one else. Their fervor for the sport is unsurpassed and their skill as cyclsits is on a par with their zeal. Italy is now one of my favorite places to cycle!

Myself (left) with fellow rider Terry from England at the start.

The event itself.  L’Eroica is a one of a kind event, at least in my experience. I should first say that in Italy there is a whole series of vintage cycling events held in the country throughout the year, but L’Eroica is the premiere event of that group. At L’Eroica there were so many beautiful examples of vintage bicycles to be seen, some were marques that I have never heard of! Their riders obviously cared for them and prepared them well for the ride, then they took them out and hammered them into dust on this vicious course. It is a remarkable sight to see perfect examples of Cinellis, Hetchins and Olmos being ridden without mercy over the Strada Bianca and covered in white dust. In addition to celebrating the classic era of cycling the event is also about preserving the white gravel roads that were traditionally raced upon in the past. Over 100 kilometers of the event is ridden over the Strada Bianca. The 205 km course is essentially a giant and irregular figure 8 loop (see below) which traverses this very hilly region. The climbs are generally short but quite steep, often over a 20% grade and the route seems to take in every vicious little climb in Chianti! It also passes through some of the most remarkable countryside imaginable. This combination of a classic route on historic bikes is what makes L’Eroica so unique.

Justin exiting the starting queue, 5:40 am.

In the years that this event has been around it has grown significantly. During the early years there was no restriction on the type or vintage of bike you could ride. However in the last 3 years a strict policy of requiring traditional road racing bicycle models of 1987 or earlier has been in place. Even with this restriction, participation has exploded to the point of now being detrimental to the event in my view. 5500 riders may not a problem when spread over several different routes and distances, but when several of those groups start together and converge on the first rest stop at the same time then problems occur. I believe that the event is now suffering from its popularity.

Approaching Castelnuovo Berardenga

My equipment choices. My 1974 Legnano was a great choice of bikes for L’Eroica. The primary thing about it is the great clearance for a larger tire. I used 32c Panaracers and could have gone a little bigger if I wanted to but I chose the 32’s to try and kept it svelte looking. The other important choice was a TA Specialties crankset, circa 1980. That is not exactly “period correct” for this bike but well within the acceptable years range. That gave me a 36 tooth small chainring which makes it pretty close to a modern compact crankset. Combine that with a 30 tooth Regina freewheel and I had better gearing than most riders. The vintage clothing choices we not too much of a reach since I wear some wool occaisionally along with some old school shoes. I was very comfortable in my wool and leather kit all day long! I also used a small canvas backpack which came in handy during the day and kept me from stuffing my pockets. When your pockets are full it is hard to access things like your camera and I really wanted to get a lot of pictures during this ride.

Climbing out of Pianella on the last leg

Preparation. For me, preparation for this event meant getting lots of miles on my bike of choice. That also meant riding in the equipment that I would be using during the event. Using my leather shoes and toe-clips was a blast from past and felt quite foreign at first but after a while it did not seem so different. The same with the geometry of the bike which felt a little wrong to me when I first started riding it, but once again after I put some miles on it began to feel okay. Eventually, riding the Legnano in vintage gear began to feel like I was just riding my bike and not some vintage museum piece. I knew that the support offered on this ride would be different than at other events. There was not a Powerbar or Gatorade in sight! Luckily for me eating Parma Ham, bread dipped in olive oil and cheese is not much of a departure from my normal diet. Not to mention a little glass of Chianti at the ristori to aid digestion! Really, any other food would have been out of place on this ride. I must say, that Italians in addition to their being superior cyclists, also have a flair for eating properly. The rustic quality of the food is very much to my liking, emphasis on the quality!!!

Me at the finish, sweaty, cold and hungry!

In the future. The question we all ask after an event is “would you come back and do it again”? Immediately after an event we often say never again, but I suffer from the same amnesia that afflicts other riders at some point and after a week or so you begin to think, well maybe. So, if the opportunity presented itself again I would not hesitate to ride L’Eroica in the future. I might even try to find an older bike to ride just to enhance the experience! Mostly though I just love riding in Italy, and there are other regions as well as other vintage events to ride in. I hope to go back at some point and enjoy again all that Italy has to offer the cyclist!

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