Friday, October 8, 2010

My l'Eroica!

I woke up at 3:45 and started my adventure off by packing my bags and cramming as much food into me as possible at that hour. A half hour drive to Gaiole later and I was busily preparing the bike and everything I was going to need for a long day in the saddle.

In the square, I was among the first hundred or so to take the line. BUT - I forgot my stamp book at the car! By the time I had made my way back, a large group had already left. I'd just have to catch them on the first easy climb up to the Brolio castle.

With my limited gearing, I knew the first part was not going to be an issue, having ridden it the day before. When I got to the first gravel climb at Brolio, I found it had been lit all the way up on both sides by candles! In the 5:30 darkness, it was quite a site. It was here that I found some friends from Tommasini, who I would continue to meet up with during the first half of the day. Like 99% of the riders, they were on 80's bikes with rational gearing, so they had quite an advantage and would kill me on the climbs like the rest!

On the run into Siena, I was moving along quite well and got in with a German group who were dressed and equipped quite well. The bianca to Radi held a nice surprise for me. In my 40x15, I bottomed out the downhill only to take a quick right up a steep gravel climb! Mis-shift! I had to stop, mess with my wheel/chain tension, remount, head back down hill, turn around and shift for the climb! Luckily, that would be my only mishap of the day.

At the Radi ristoro (food stop), I found my friend Osvaldo, who was a team Liquigas bus driver and really surprised to see me and my old bike. We did the section to Piana together, as he was with a friend who needed to turn at the 135km route. At this point, I made the 205km decision and quickly found myself alone for a good 15km.

The long, steep gravel climb towards Montalcino had me pushing as hard as possible in my easiest gear. I was able to manage all but the final 100 meters, where I had to get off and walk. That is one tough climb on a normal bike! It took me a while after that to start to feel somewhat better, and the only part of the second 100km that I felt good was on the faster gravel sections, where I could use some bike handling skills and lack of fear of crashing to fly over the strade bianche and pass a good number of people. Of course, they'd pass me as soon as the road headed up! I got a number of looks and compliments on the bike. It was definitely one of the oldest bikes on the long course - I didn't see any older.

I did come across a young guy on a Galetti with cambia corsa. We talked at one of the ristori (where I guess I managed to forget to get a stamp!). He had a rough night's sleep in the campground and was feeling the effects of lack of gearing (his was far worse than mine, but he was half my age!). I last saw Massimo sleeping next to his bike at the Pieve ristoro. I'm sure he passed me later, but I was likely bleary-eyed on the ensuing climbs! Nice job, Massimo!

I never really bonked, but that's mainly because I ate as much as I could at the ristori. Two in particular were offering bowls of ribollita, which were lifesavers.

The finale went quite well, having also ridden that part on Saturday. I stopped in Radda and literally drank a huge banana yogurt (not the best idea, but I only had 10km to go at that point). I climbed up after that and then descended to Gaiole, crossing the line at 7:15pm, fourteen hours and five minutes after departing!

l'Eroica is the best fun I've had on a bike in a long time. Even suffering from the effort and the bit of digestion trouble, I noticed I was grinning for most of those fourteen hours (ok, except for that one picture up there!). I'm already planning my bike and how I'll attack this thing in 2011 with a Paris-Roubaix shifting system. There's no wonder this was listed as one of the top 50 sporting events to do recently.


  1. Great description! I'm glad you were able to get the gearing thing worked out too! Love the googles too! Steven