The 2016 L’Eroica Experience: Part One

If you’ve never heard of L’Eroica, the following text, mostly quoted from the official website explains the event quite well.

L’Eroica started in 1997 because of one man, Giancarlo Brocci. Giancarlo admired the values of a past cycling so much that he wanted to reconnect others to the heritage that inspired much Italian history; literature, culture, and music.

L’Eroica was also begun as a foundation for the protection and preservation of the last gravel roads in Tuscany. These romantic concepts led to the idea of L’Eroica, an event that initially saw 92 participants, or “hunters of feelings and emotions”, as the creator Giancarlo Brocci names them.

Below is a link to a video which explains L’Eroica even better.

Bound for L’Eroica

This isn’t first L’Eroica go-round for Mr and Mrs K-Dogg of the Gravel Cyclist crew. They attended in 2014 – you can read K-Dogg’s ride report HERE and check out the video he shot, HERE. After K-Dogg was quoted as saying “L’Eroica was my best day on a bike ever”, JOM, founder of the Gravel Cyclist entity, knew he had to attend.

Roll forward to 2016, which has already been a jam packed year for the Gravel Cyclist crew. However, the 2016 edition of L’Eroica is special, being the 20th Anniversary year. We had to make the trip across the “pond”!

Just like other popular gravel races and events that are in demand, one had to stay on top of registration proceedings and apply as soon as the entry opened. Thus, JOM, along with Mr and Mrs K-Dogg, applied for 2016 L’Eroica sometime in February of 2016.

The Rules of L’Eroica (Regulation)

  • L’Eroica is a non-competitive cycling event – defined as a “ride” by the organization.
  • There are five routes: 209 km, 135 km, 75 km, 46 km, as well as the new Gallo Nero route of 125 km. Naturally, the Gravel Cyclist crew is riding the 209km event. We didn’t fly across the Atlantic ocean to cut it short!
  • Participants over 65 years of age will only be allowed to ride the 46, 75, 100/120 or 135 km routes.
  • From 2015, Italian law requires all participants to provide the organizers with a medical certificate proving their suitability to practice cycling as a sport. No joking around on this.
  • Firstly, pre-registration is free, but a selection process is made after one’s application is made. This registration is necessary to participate in “click” days, where the chance to obtain an entry happens.
  • Once a rider has been accepted, there are complex rules regarding number and categories of participants. Rather than mentioning all of those, we’ll refer to the ones that directly affect us. JOM and K-Dogg are one of 2,600 standard numbers for men under the age of 65 that were accepted – €68.00 for each entry – 50% of these numbers are assigned to Italians, the rest to foreigners. Mrs K-Dogg is one of 500 pink numbers for ladies that were accepted – €68.00 for each entry.
  • Bicycles and Clothing: These are the most important rules! L’Eroica is an event for road racing bikes, dedicated to cyclists wearing vintage or historically inspired gear, on “Heroic Bikes (Bici Eroiche), or newly constructed Vintage-style bikes. Bianchi produces the new – but not new – L’Eroica edition bike for rides such as L’Eroica.
    • Frames: Must be pre-1987 with or without gears, such as those built during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. All bikes should be of steel construction, barring aluminium frames such as Alan and Vitus (what JOM is riding) or the carbon / steel lugged Exxon Graftek frames (readers – JOM is looking for one of these in size 54 / 55  top tube so please leave a message below if you have one to sell!). JOM will make a point of asking about the Teledyne Titan… one of the world’s first mass-produced Titanium frames.
    • Derailleurs: More recent bikes with multiple gears and derailleurs must have downtube shifters of the friction kind. Pre-1980 non-indexed bar-end gear shifters and rod/hand manual operated front derailleurs are the exception to this rule.
    • Pedals: Must be toe clips and straps or original pedals for older bikes; quick release, clip-less pedals are not allowed.
    • Brakes: Brake cables must pass outside and over the handlebars (cables can pass inside the frame).
    • Wheels: Must have at least 32 spokes laced to a low profile rim (20 mm depth or less, except for wooden rims); the rims must be of either steel, aluminium or wood.
    • Clothing: Participants are strongly encouraged to wear vintage or vintage-style cycling gear, such as wool jerseys and shorts and to avoid wearing modern technical gear in a visible way. Management reserves the right to disqualify any participant whose clothing is considered unsuitable or inappropriate to the event. Generally, period replica kits are allowed.

There are a lot of rules, but if you pay close attention, you’ll have no problem meeting any of the organization’s qualifications.

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JOM’s bike for 2016 L’Eroica, photographed during course reconnaissance.

Expect a detailed article about JOM’s bike for L’Eroica soon – a 1987 Vitus 979 rebuilt with Mavic / Modolo / Simplex parts as a homage to former professional, Sean Kelly!

Flight across the Atlantic

Without going into great detail, the crew found a smoking deal on airfares which helped considerably; considering there is the potential for oversize baggage charges, rental cars and accommodation, every saving helps. JOM, Mr and Mrs K-Dogg departed the USA home base of Gainesville, Florida on the afternoon of Monday, September 26, 2016, with bikes, luggage cases and other stuff.

The airline check-in process went smoothly. Mrs K-Dogg is a regular traveler with her job, and is highly ranked in the points / rewards systems of several airlines. No bike or baggage fees for Mr and Mrs K-Dogg! On the other hand, JOM paid $100 for his bicycle and its related case; remember, no Ritchey Breakaway bikes on this trip – the rest of his luggage was gratis. Considering the distance from the USA to Florence, Italy, and the three planes required to make the journey, $100 is a good deal. Win!

Somewhere over Atlanta, Georgia, USA.
Somewhere over Atlanta, Georgia, USA.

Good luck continued with the Gravel Cyclist crew (no jinxing please). All flight connections were on-time and we arrived safely into Florence, Italy, around 12pm local time on Tuesday afternoon. The only hassle during this part of the trip was lugging our bike cases and suitcases from the Florence airport terminal into the rental car bus. We took up a considerable portion of the rear of the bus, but nobody seemed too upset :mrgreen:

Unboxing Time

Thanks to the overly protective nature of our heavy-duty – and heavy – bike cases, our bikes arrived safe and sound. All of our respective cases weighed a tad under, or bang on 50lbs / 22.7 kgs. However, because of the actual case weight, we had to move a few parts from the bikes into our suitcases… seatpost / seatpost or pedals, etc… think juggling and weighing yourself on the home scale countless times to get the cases dialed in. Don’t you hate these first world problems?

We spent the remainder of our Tuesday afternoon at our Tuscan villa bike building party, and visiting the local grocery store for supplies.

K-Dogg during our outdoor bike building party.
K-Dogg and our Tuscan outdoor bike building party.

Important Note: For many Americano airlines, maximum baggage weight for most items is set at 50lbs. Avoid overweight cases else face the possibility of excess weight baggage charges!

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Ready to roll!

Before anyone comments – we’re doing most of our reconnaissance rides with our regular clipless road pedals and shoes. We’re saving the regulation pedals… and our feet, for the day before, and event day itself.

JOM's Mavic SSC pedals, Binda straps and Adidas Eddy Merckx shoes.
JOM’s Mavic SSC pedals, Binda straps, Christophe clips and Adidas Eddy Merckx shoes.

Reconnaisance Ride #1

Our body clocks are off a little bit, but after a very restful night of sleep, the Gravel Cyclist crew woke at around 7am on Wednesday morning, September 28th. Well, JOM woke at that time, while the Doggs slumbered on a bit longer. In between writing about L’Eroica, filming and actual riding, JOM is also reporting about his Interbike trip to Las Vegas… burning the candles a bit, so thanks to those patiently waiting for the reports and photos of Interbike goodies.

Moving along…

Because L’Eroica starts so early in the morning – in the dark – between 5:00am and 7:00am, we needed to gather a bit of tribal knowledge of the early gravel sectors… and there will be a lot of participants, meaning you cannot always pick the perfect lines.

Thus, we departed on a loop that would take us over the first 25ish kilometres of the route, and the last 25ish kilometres of the route. The tempo was pretty mellow at times, all of us are still a wee bit jetlagged. We’ll let the photos from today tell the story…

K-Dogg at the bottom of our accommodation's gravel driveway.
K-Dogg at the bottom of our accommodation’s gravel driveway. ‘Tis a bit steep.
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Mrs K-Dogg along one of today’s few paved roads.
Most retro road bikes don't feature low gears - frequent out of the saddle climbing.
Most retro road bikes don’t feature low gears – frequent out of the saddle climbing.
JOM strikes a classic hand-on-hip pose.
JOM strikes a classic hand-on-hip pose.
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Mrs K-Dogg and JOM’s bike.
Riding into Gaiole in Chianti, home to L'Eroica!
Riding into Gaiole in Chianti, home to L’Eroica!
Gaiole in Chianti - Home to L'Eroica!
Just a small section of Gaiole in Chianti.
A peek inside the L'Eroica shop.
A peek inside the L’Eroica shop in Gaiole.
Further inside the L'Eroica shop.
Further inside the L’Eroica shop.
A grupetto of lovely Gios bikes.
A grupetto of lovely Gios bikes.
K-Dogg scored some sweet shoes - in his size.
K-Dogg scored some sweet retro shoes – in his size.
One of several castles along the L'Eroica route.
One of several castles along the L’Eroica route.
Another view of that beautiful castle.
Another view of that beautiful castle.
JOM doesn't like selfies too much, but we make exceptions for L'Eroica.
JOM doesn’t like selfies too much, but he makes exceptions for L’Eroica.
Tuscan gravel. A true gravel bike would be more at home vs a retro road bike.
Tuscan gravel. A true gravel bike would be more at home vs a retro road bike.
This was a tricky, but beautiful descent.
This was a tricky, but beautiful descent.
Good bike handling skills are essential at L'Eroica.
Good bike handling skills are essential at L’Eroica. Many of the descents are very tricky.
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Remember, gravel can bite… and chip your paint.
The lovely town of Radda in Chianti.
The lovely town of Radda in Chianti.
Just a small part of Radda in Chianti.
Just a small part of Radda in Chianti.
Today's reconnaissance ride deserved some Gelati... when in Italy.
Today’s reconnaissance ride deserved some recovery Gelati… when in Italy.
Dinner at a local restaurant in Radda in Chianti.
Dinner at a local restaurant in Radda in Chianti. We did learn about a LOCAL brewery! 🙂

Overall, an amazing day on the bike. We’ve seen just a small portion of this area of Tuscany, but this is cycling paradise, regardless of whether you ride road or gravel! JOM is already thinking about returning with a true gravel bike…

K-Dogg scored this sample from Brew Fighters, courtesy of our waitress. Grazie!
K-Dogg scored this excellent stout from Chianti Brew Fighters, courtesy of our waitress. Grazie!

Finally, JOM did shoot plenty of video during this ride, meaning there may be a brief video showing some of the highlights. Video definitely provides a better idea of the beauty of this area, but the best way to experience it is come visit.

JOM’s Strava Data

It wasn’t the fastest ride, but you can see what JOM got up to HERE… climbing, gravel roads and old road bikes sans low gears.

What’s Happening Next?

More reconnaissance, a visit to Siena and likely, a visit to Chianti Brew Fighters (we LOVE local breweries).

Thanks for reading, watch this space!

6 comments on “The 2016 L’Eroica Experience: Part One

  1. Sean Kelly! The last of the old hard men IMO. Love listening to his color commentary on Eurosport. Those Adidas EM’s are the cat’s pajamas. I’m jealous as hell. Don’t forget to tuck the laces old skool style.

    1. HAVE to tuck in the laces to avoid catching them on the chainring! Installing the real deal pedals tomorrow… still pretty stoked I found a set of the EM shoes in nice condition and in my size!

  2. Nice Report. I made it into one of your start line photos but you were a couple of hours faster than I so…that was it. Would add that for many of the riders of L’Eroica the steel bikes and vintage gear are more “art appreciation”, philosophy, religion even..rather than “cosplay”! For those L’Eroica takes on other extraordinary aspects. The matched pair of De Vlaeminck’s Gios Strada and Pista. The freshly manufactured Brooklyn, Flandria, Molteni jerseys…The incredible market filled with new”vintage” products to cater to the devotees. Bikes!! A few “restored”, most not, mid range, super rare, customs (very few), all being ridden and respected. The his and her Cinelli’s were a mythic thing of legend until I saw them rideen in the streets of Gaiole. Great photos and thanks for sharing.

    1. The cosplay comment was a bit of weak humor on my part 🙂

      I have plenty more photos to add from bikes I spotted at the market and several pedigree machines on display at the winery near the base of the climb leading to Castillo di Brolio.

      De Vlaeminck’s Gios bikes were among my favorites during the festival – overall, L’Eroica was my best cycling experience – ever.

  3. Really enjoyed your daily diary and on the same page with you as Eroica is also the best day I’ve ever had on a bike . The magic of this event still operates, after 8 participations, including seven on 209km route. However, I have a suggestion for you to ruminate.
    We have always started just before the 7am deadline and have never experienced any traffic problems, even on initial climbs or at the starting line. I wouldn’t miss for anything the Tuscan countryside panorama in daylight, with a view extending as far as Siena just as you summit the Castello de Brolio climb annoncing the beginning of what will be an unforgettable,incomparable, day in the saddle. Gives you a couple extra hrs. of sleep to boot. By the way, I’m a US expat living in Switzerland. Hope to cross paths with you one day there.

    1. Hi Fred, thanks for chiming in. Next time, I am following your lead with a later start. Traffic was our primary concern so I’m glad to hear that wasn’t a problem for you – and, you are spot on about the Tuscan countryside – people need to see it first hand to understand. Absolutely stunning.

      Hope to cross paths in the future – L’Eroica Hispania is on my to-do list but I will return to Gaiole.

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