Greetings from l'Eroica 2014! It was a fantastic event in most every way, just what we hoped for after our little preview a few years ago. Above you see Heather just before the start with our friend Maynard Hershon, whose work you can read these days at BICYCLE PAPER. And yes, he DID wear that modern crash hat despite the clash with the bici d'epoca theme of the event. Maynard signed up for the 135 kilometer distance while "Harry & Leather" wisely opted for 75 kms of fun. Maynard came to his senses late on Saturday night and decided to ride the shorter distance, meaning we got to sleep in and have breakfast at the hotel when the sun was up. Great idea Maynard!!
One of the great things about these events is how they match up with our pedala forte, mangia bene philosophy of cycling. Above you see Heather at the first ristoro where they provided apples and grapes, plus fresh bread with olive oil or hazelnut spread or even wine and sugar. We were more than hungry by this stop in Radda in Chianti. Although we'd sampled some of the route during our visit years ago, even the shorter routes proved VERY challenging. Really steep climbs on the famous Tuscan white (dirt) roads proved tough on many - we'd guess only 20% of the riders were able to ride up rather than walk. With our low gears and dirt road experience we managed to pedal up all of the climbs, though it was tough finding a good line and weaving around and through the various folks either walking or stalling out and falling over.
In the spirit of the event, we ran only one water bottle cage, so stopping for water was a regular practice during the day. 75 kms is around 50 miles and our route featured almost 6000 feet of climbing. What that doesn't describe is the DESCENDING. Not only were some of the climbs close to 10% and on dirt, more than a few of the descents were as well! Just as the climbs, some walked while others wobbled down at barely a walking pace, meaning WE slalomed our way down just as we did on the way up. Heather got pushed off into a ditch early on, while Larry shouldered a couple of wobbly riders out of his way rather than crash. We saw a few crashes ourselves, with quite a few riders showing the effects of various contact with the ground, either with dirt covering their clothes or blood running from scraped elbows or knees. This is not an event for novices. We've ridden cyclocross courses that were easier than this route! When they say EROICA they're not kidding!
But of course it's not ALL suffering, as above you can see the salami and Chianti stop. We rode through this one years ago (but didn't enjoy anything since we weren't officially entered) so we knew what was to come shortly after, but couldn't help ourselves to a taste of salami with a little bread, washed down with a plastic cup of Chianti. Here a band was playing and we filed through the steep, narrow lane. A 15% climb started just after this, quickly turning to dirt, probably the most challenging climb of the route. Very few were able to ride this, but when you think a lot of these bikes might have a low gear of just 44 X 19, you REALLY begin to appreciate the old champions who powered these bikes up real mountains and then must have scared themselves silly on the way down with brakes that weren't much better than Fred Flintstone's.
Above you can see our bikes after the event. No mechanical issues for us, though by l'Eroica standards these are thoroughly modern bikes even though you have to center the chain on the sprockets by feel and sound and jam your feet into toe clips and straps. At speed on the descents, avoiding holes and bumps in the road was difficult, so these bikes took a beating, but came through with just a coating of the famous Tuscan white dust, some sweat and rather dry chains.
We're looking forward to another of these events and we think the bikes are as well!
More details and photos from the Saturday expo in the next post.