Gaiole in Chianti is the home of L’Eroica, in essence an annual vintage bicycle sportive but in practice, oh so much more than that.
We were there as guests of Brooks and after two nights in a dreadful hotel in Florence we were somewhat stunned when we saw the beautiful castle that would be home for the next few days. Once in our suite, we actually leapt about in fits of excitement.
L’Eroica is more than a ride, it’s a whole weekend of wine fuelled, laughter filled fun so ignoring some rather heavy rain, we headed to the village to look around the vintage cycling market. There were so many kick ass vintage jerseys and I spotted the most brilliant looking embroidered woolen cycling tights, but decided it would be prudent to resist. And once back at Brooks HQ, I realised I’d made the right decision as they presented us all with new kits to wear for the ride.
Saturday evening, after a day of horrendous weather, we headed down to the L’Eroica dinner. As there was no vegetarian option I didn’t eat and instead got really drunk on red wine – it doesn’t take much to get me pissed up and the wine was plentiful! The atmosphere in the tent was fantastic, it was such a great prelude to the ride and one I hope is replicated at Eroica Britannia. I didn’t see a grumpy face the entire weekend actually!
Weather wise, we’d been expecting the worst so couldn’t believe our luck when we saw blue skies on Sunday morning. Dressed in our Brooks team issue kit, we set off on our 78km ride through the stunning Tuscan countryside. A feature I’ve written about L’Eroica will appear in the next issue of Coven, so I’ve intentionally kept this post brief, but in summary, all I need to say is ‘WOW.’
Our route was about 50% on the famous white gravel roads or ‘strade bianche’ and 50% on regular tarmac. The whole ride was filled with smiling faces, many like myself, atop wildly unsuitable death-machines wondering whether they’d make it the whole way around the loop! I don’t want to keep dishing out the superlatives, but goddam, Tuscany is a beautiful place; many roads wind along ridges through undulating hills and you see mile after mile of vineyards, clusters of terracotta villas and so many castles and monasteries!
In the end, my bike held up until the last 15km, after which I could only change between the front chainrings, a challenge on the hilly terrain, but I really didn’t care as I was in such a good mood. As we rolled back into town, the crowds cheered and a beer was thrust into my hand. What a great weekend, one of the best, actually THE best cycling event I’ve ever been to. Please, oh please, oh please can I go again next year?
Watch out for a full report on L’Eroica in the next issue of Coven Magazine.