Why participate in these bici d'epoca events? Perhaps it's what they're NOT.
To start, they are non-competitive. We're long past our racing days and really have nothing left to prove when it comes to riding a bicycle. It's FUN, pure and simple and these events are based on fun. Above you see the group mobbing Caffe Trieste, on the Milano-Sanremo route for...well...forever.
Next, if you enjoy admiring classic bicycles, you're in heaven here. Larry would pay admission to a museum to look at these gorgeous vintage machines, though not every one is as pretty as one.
Or this one. You see lots more of the blue Gios bikes with the white panels while the reverse color scheme is rare. Old bikes like these too often end up as display pieces, collecting dust instead of being ridden and collecting a different kind of dust. It's said that Enzo Ferrari hated the idea of his cars being purchased simply to be admired and polished - he wanted them DRIVEN, and hard!
This guy put a lot of effort into looking just like Roger DeVlaeminck. Looks pretty cool to us!
Marco of GIOS was there with a small collection of their gorgeous frames, including this DeVlaeminck Brooklyn replica machine. Their shop is not too far from here, in Volpiano. Sadly Aldo and Marco have only the rights to sell their famous machines in Italy while Alfredo Gios has rights for the rest of the world and is marketing Chinese-made machines painted in the famous blue everywhere else. In a perfect world we'd take each and every client to Volpiano to be measured for one of these hand-made beauties. Perhaps Larry needs to replace his cheapo Bianchi with one of these?
Once the ride was completed and the photos of the gorgeous bikes taken, it was time to EAT! We lined up to get our pranzo (two kinds of pasta, sliced salami for a second plate, plus an apricot crostata for desert plus bread, water and (of course) WINE. We looked for spaces at a table with wine bottles still with some contents in them and were waved over to one with Carlo Delfino and Imerio Massignan holding court. Carlo's the guy in the goggles above. A real character as well as cycling historian. He dragged us down the street to a bar later and treated us to caffe. Grazie Carlo!
Then there was Imerio Massignan. Before there was Marco Pantani, there was Massignan to race uphill and make us dream. He won the climber's polka-dot jersey in LeTour two times. Another true character, full of tales of his racing days. Rumor was he rode some of the course today too. We were also introduced to Mario Labadessa, he's the guy riding the penny-farthing in the video clip in Part 1. Another true character - these things seem to be full of people like these. After the caffe we returned for the awards ceremony where Heather was honored as the first women to sign up and yours truly for being the man who came the longest distance to attend. In reality, everybody received an award including a bottle of wine. The staff who put on the event were roundly thanked before everyone departed.
While there are Giro d'Italia Gran Fondos and l'Eroica events held in other countries, we believe they are attempts at recreating something that can only exist here in Italy. Riding through these old villages on a vintage bike while dressed in period costume could almost seem like you have gone back-in-time, especially on a stretch of road devoid of automobiles, often the only clue as to the time-period.
The back-in-time atmosphere reminds us of what it was like when we took up the sport. People admired a nice bicycle, but envy wasn't a part of it. Even at local races, there was not much of the "attitude" one experiences today, even at charity rides or centuries. Everyone was out to have a good time, same as today with these vintage events. It's far from an age thing as there are folks from every generation enjoying themselves, with the only commonality being an appreciation of these gorgeous, hand-made machines from another era. We'll be at Tuscany's grand daddy of them all, l'Eroica in October and might find another event we can fit in between our guided tour obligations before that.
We might work on ideas to share this experience with you, let us know your thoughts on whether you'd like to participate and what it would take. Do we need to provide the vintage machines, shoes that work with old-time clip & strap pedals? What else?