One of the many steep strade bianche
Leaving a feed station
Probably the biggest perk of my employment (excepting a practically unlimited supply of Proofide) is that I get to attend L’Eroica. Saddle manufacturer Brooks, my employer, sponsors the event every year, and aside from performing small (though crucially important!) PR duties, I get to do the event just like any other person.
This year’s event saw some big changes, certainly the biggest (at least physically) being the new event center built adjacent to the Start/Finish line, a sign that L’Eroica is here to stay! And a good thing too, as this year the number of participants increased by 1,000 to find 3,500 cyclists eager to brave one of the most difficult one-day cyclosportive events in Europe.
With all the distractions that L’Eroica has to offer, it’s important to remember, when planning your journey to Tuscany, that you will also be visiting one of the most famous culinary regions in Italy. Visitors would be wise to conduct a bit of research beforehand to make sure they do not miss out on the unique, abundant, and affordable delicacies here abounding, particularly of the cheese, wine, and meat varieties.
The day after arrival I set off to visit the guys from Cicli Berlinetta, who had rented a villa 30km from the Eroica headquarters town of Gaiole in Chianti, and who were going to help me put the finishing touches on the 1982 C.B.T. Italia machine I had found at the event jumble last year. They had been spending the week cycling all day and relaxing at the villa in the evening, which should serve as a tip for anyone unfamiliar with how to do L’Eroica properly.
Shortly after I had tuned my bike, I went for a test ride. Upon stomping on the pedals at the first hill I came to, I found myself being pitched over the bars, and somehow managed to gain control. My vintage bike had broken. And here began an important lesson.
Should anything untoward happen to your ancient equipment along the way, say, a routine failure, like a broken drive-side broken spoke, you might have a major calamity on your hands. Especially if you wish to ride your bike in somewhat original condition.
In my case the spoke problem was exacerbated by the failure of an old multiple freewheel from Belgium that they stopped making in 1968. As luck would have it, I found a vendor at the jumble in Gaiole who actually had the proper tool to remove the freewheel, which he did. Only then did we discover that the rim was bent beyond repair.
“Finding a 36-hole clincher rim shouldn’t be a problem” I thought, and I even had hopes of finding an exact silver Mavic replacement. Ha! Welcome to vintage bicycle culture, you fool!
I spent the better part of the next two days, actually until the wee hours the night before the event, attempting to solve this problem, and no small amount of diesel was burned in its pursuit. Finally, I was forced to use a “modern”, black (oh, the humiliation) CXP-22 rim that fairly ruined the vintage appearance of my ride, even with the old-timer Mavic hub. (A less-thrilling wheel build I could hardly imagine).
I should say that I considered myself lucky, for had it not been for the successful build of that anachronistic anomaly, I would have spent this years’ L’Eroica with the event organizers in Gaiole.
Instead I was able to ride and have truly one of the best days of my life.
The point I would like to make, alongside the jaw-dropping landscape, friendly Tuscan inhabitants, excellent Italian food, first-rate historical cycling paraphernalia, and other trappings of this daunting event, is that it should not be forgotten that the Eroica snakes along a 200km tour through terrain decidedly unsuited to the type of bicycle you are required to ride. You best be prepared for any eventualities that may come your way. To wit – make sure your equipment is in good working order and bring as many spare parts as you can manage.
For lots of photos of L’Eroica 2010, as well as some portraits we made of some of the riders after they crossed the finish, have a look at the Brooks Eroica album on Facebook.