Euro Sportive – L’eroica

Beau­ti­ful Tus­can scenery, gru­elling gravel roads and a big dose of nos­tal­gia

Bikes Etc - - CONTENTS -

A gru­elling Ital­ian chal­lenge that harks back to a heroic age of cy­cling.

What’s it all about? If you’re giv­ing your ride a name that means ‘Heroic’, you’re giv­ing your­self a lot to live up to. For­tu­nately, in this case, the name is very well de­served – L’eroica is truly a ride for he­roes, as well as one that cel­e­brates the he­roes of cy­cling’s past – the likes of Bar­tali and Coppi – and their in­cred­i­ble feats. It was cre­ated in 1997 (2017 is its 21st edition) by Gian­carlo Brocci, who wanted to be re­con­nected with the cy­cling of by­gone times, with­out the pam­per­ing pro­vided by mod­ern bikes and road sur­faces. In true ro­man­tic Ital­ian style, Brocci de­scribed the 92 par­tic­i­pants of that first ride as ‘hun­ters of feel­ing and emo­tion’. An­other of the ride’s aims was to pro­tect and pre­serve Tus­cany’s fa­mous ‘ strade bianche’ – lit­er­ally ‘white roads’ – that criss­cross the re­gion. Th­ese un­sur­faced gravel roads are Italy’s an­swer to the pavé (cob­bled farm tracks) of north­ern Europe, and just as chal­leng­ing to ride.

What are the route op­tions?

There are five routes to choose from, all start­ing from the town of Gaiole in Chi­anti. The 46km Leisure Route takes in the strik­ing land­scape of Chi­anti vine­yards, as well as views of the his­toric city of Siena. At 75km with a four-hour time limit, the Short Route is re­garded as the ‘gate­way’ to the true myth­i­cal chal­lenge of L’eroica, fea­tur­ing plenty of leg­endary Tus­can hos­pi­tal­ity. The Chi­anti Clas­sico Route is 115km, of which 40km is on the strade bianche, in­clud­ing some se­ri­ously tough hilly sec­tions, hit­ting gra­di­ents of 18%. At 135km, the Medium Route is longer but not quite as tough – in­stead, its ap­peal is some of Tus­cany’s most beau­ti­ful scenery, in­clud­ing the me­dieval vil­lage of Buon­con­vento. If you want to sam­ple the full authen­tic L’eroica ex­pe­ri­ence, though, you need to take on the 209km Long Route, which is es­sen­tially all the other rides rolled into one epic ad­ven­ture with over 3,200m of climb­ing, and mag­i­cal mo­ments such as rid­ing at night to the can­dle-lit Castello di Bro­lio. Set­ting off at 5.30am, you’ll also get to en­joy the stun­ning sight of the sun­rise over the Tus­can coun­try­side. This is a ride for ex­pe­ri­enced cyclists, though – don’t un­der­es­ti­mate the chal­lenge of de­scend­ing steep, twisty gravel roads, or the se­ri­ously ar­du­ous climbs.

What bike do I need?

The rules state that only rid­ers with ‘heroic’ bikes are al­lowed to take part, which it de­fines as fol­lows: ‘for a start, they must be steel- framed road bikes built be­fore 1987. With a cou­ple of ex­cep­tions, alu­minium bikes are for­bid­den, and car­bon is a def­i­nite no-no. Down tube gear shifters are the norm, al­though some mod­els of bar-end shifters are al­lowed, as long as they are of the right vin­tage. When it comes to ped­als, stick to tra­di­tional clips and toes­traps. Brake ca­bles should be ex­ter­nal and wheels should have a min­i­mum 32 spokes and low-pro­file rims.’ Some rid­ers sneak­ily break some of th­ese rules but part of the rea­son for do­ing an event like this is to en­ter into the heroic spirit, and many take this to the ex­treme, rid­ing an­cient pre-war sin­gle­speed bikes with wholly authen­tic pe­riod com­po­nents and kit.

Is it a big event?

From that first ride with just 92 en­trants, L’eroica has grown to at­tract 5,500 rid­ers from over 30 dif­fer­ent coun­tries. It has also spawned sev­eral off­shoot events, in­clud­ing

THE STRADE BIANCHE ARE ITALY’S AN­SWER TO NORTH­ERN EUROPE’S PAVÉ

L’eroica Bri­tan­nia, which takes place in Bux­ton, Der­byshire in June – find out more at eroicabri­tan­nia.co.uk.

What’s on of­fer at the feed sta­tions?

Don’t ex­pect to find the usual en­ergy bars and gels – in keep­ing with the retro char­ac­ter of the event, the food of­fer­ings are more along the lines of cheese, dried meats, fruit and cia­batta, all washed down with plenty of the lo­cal wine. This is more of a fes­ti­val of cy­cling than a race or sportive, and a real sense of cel­e­bra­tion and en­joy­ment per­vades ev­ery as­pect of it – which goes some way to com­pen­sat­ing for the sheer suf­fer­ing you’ll ex­pe­ri­ence on the ride it­self.

How do I get there?

The near­est ma­jor air­port is Pisa, which is served by di­rect flights from most ma­jor UK air­ports. Re­turn flights from Lon­don Stansted start at around £50. WHEN: SUN­DAY 1ST OC­TO­BER 2017 WHERE: GAIOLE IN CHI­ANTI, SIENA, ITALY DIS­TANCE: 46KM/75KM/115KM/ 135KM/209KM EL­E­VA­TION: 3,251M ON THE LONG ROUTE COST: €105 (£95) SIGN UP: EROICAGAIOLE.COM

Rid­ers on the Long Route set off be­fore the sun comes up

Vin­tage bikes and cloth­ing are a big part of L’eroica’s charm – as is the stun­ning Tus­can scenery

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.