This Sunday, October 6 will be the 17th Edition of L’Eroica ( the “Heroic”), held in Gaiole, Chianti Italy. I wish I could be there this year but I had the great fortune to participate in 2011 where I was recognized in article by VeloNews stringer. It is an absolutely amazing celebration of all things Italian, cycling and much more; a must do “once in your life” event . Several of you have asked me to write a bit more of my experience there and any advise I could share, so here it goes.
The event runs over two days. Saturday is registration, cultural events and a bike jumble. The actual ride is Sunday and is capped at 5000 participants. Exceptions the day before the race at registration building can made granted by the organizers if you have a beautiful story, told in person, as my friend Fred can attest to 🙂 It is a lottery to get in now. 2013 is full up so don’t miss the signup for 2014. For the 2013 edition of L’Eroica there were spots for:
- 1500 Italian males born between January 1, 1954 and December 31, 1997 (under 60) are selected through a lottery.
- 1000 foreigners under 60 years of age are selected through a lottery enter the draw by registering online on the website www.eroica.it beginning January 21 to March 3.
- Italians or foreigners males born before 31 December 1953 (over 60) and women regardless of age and number, are unlimited and can register online February 1 to June 20.
“vintage” bikes pre 1987 senza clipless pedals, indexed shifting and with
exposed cables runs. Technically your bicycle must be pre-1987 but I spotted some modern replicas as well there were a few local bandit riders early in the day on
modern MTBs and road bikes but they seemed to disappear as the day
used have and are packing an extra 5, 10 or 50 pounds to punish our poor wheels on pot-holed gravel.Good lights are a must and they need to last for 2-3 hours. There is at least an hour riding in the dark in the morning and about an 1-2 hours in the evening if you do the 205km loop. The first 10-12% downhill at Brolio is packed with nervous riders, very sketchy and hard to judge in the early morning light!
You should bring spares and tools. I did not see any support on the road except for groups that had a team car (amazing vintage Fiat Cinquecento, 600 Multiplas and 2CV’s as well the modern rentals) as the road are open to traffic in most parts.
The Day Before (Saturday)
Make sure you get to Gaiole the day before to register and take it all in. The town is humming with activities and there is great bike jumble with all kinds of vendors selling and trading parts, clothing and memorabilia. You can get your bike officially photographed Saturday at the town hall for their archives.
If you are going on the long loop, get to the start early at least 5:00 AM to miss the big crowds. It took us at least half an hour to find the start in the dark and minimal signage, signed in and out on the course.
You do not need to carry much food if any as there is pastries, fresh fruit, vino, stew and bread in abundance at the rest stops. Make sure you stay hydrated and have two bottles for the mid-portion stretch before Monte Sante Marie which was blazingly hot in the afternoon for us with no shade and no water stops for what felt like an eternity. There several DNF’s lying under trees in the early afternoon suffering from too much food, vino and heat prostration.
There is very limited/no support if you have a mechanical and be warned that timely medical support may be not be available if you crash.
The town is one big festival all day Sunday with many of the 35 km riders dressed to the nine in turn of the century costumes parading and hamming up for photos. Celebrities were spotted in town with Moser, Saronni and other Italian luminaries presiding over ceremonies and ribbon cuttings while the rest of us were grinding up and down the hills.
Riding the strade bianche gave me a tiny insight into how hard the men who raced the post war Giro d’Italias were, pounding on those roads day after day, battling the giants of the day Coppi, Bartali, Maginni …