Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Road to l'Eroica

As last year's l'Eroica was a solo affair due to Tucker's constant battles with sickness, this year I brought a support crew. Daisy even made the trip from the States to join the Mrs. and I. First to Zurich, then Basel and finally over the Alps to Italy.

After seeing Ciöcc, we headed towards the Ghisallo, where I gave the Cicli Masini one final test before l'Eroica. As we had dinner plans with friends in Como, I climbed up the easy side to the Chapel of the Madonna del Ghisallo. Of course, tiny, trafficked roads make for slow travel and by the time I pulled into the parking lot, the sun was well below the surrounding mountains, making us late into Como. From there, it was another long drive south to Tuscany.

The statue at the Ghisallo Chapel

Staying in Montevarchi like last year, we had a half-hour drive to Gaiole each day. Friday was spent in the market checking out all that my friends had to offer. My collection of cycling history books grew significantly that day! All the usuals were there, including Enzo, Ermes and Roberto. I was most impressed by the Bici Vintage booth and their reproduction wool jerseys made to order. The nickeled purple Automoto was by far and away the best restoration on show, while the 1916 Stucchi was calling out for an offer to be made. More on that later!

Yes, please!

This nickel-plated Automoto restoration was great

Registration was easy and painless. For those of you considering doing l'Eroica, there are many sites discussing bike standards and it's really very simple: exposed brake cables, no clipless pedals and no brifters (downtube, bar end or rod shifters are acceptable, along with single speeds or flip-flop wheels and probably some wacky, unique but old system yet to be found).

Knowing that our actual anniversary on Saturday would be an early-to-bed affair, Friday night we celebrated with dinner at a special restaurant… the stables of the Badia a Coltibuono (Abbey of the Good Harvest). What's so special about this is that the estate is owned by descendants of the Stucchi family. Yes, THAT Stucchi. While there are no bicycles on display in the 11th century villa, the restaurant features an impressive photo of what I assume to be Guido Giuntini, the Florentine banker who bought the property in 1846 and great grandfather of Piero Stucchi-Prinetti.

Saturday morning I took advantage of our location and made one more quick trip to the Bartali museum in Ponte a Ema. There, I once again wondered at the magazines, newspapers, jerseys and of course the old bikes, including a Stucchi with cambia corsa and that Bartali track bike, touted to have been made by Galmozzi (even though I have information to the contrary).

Contrary to the sign nearby, most likely NOT a Galmozzi

Saturday was spent again at the market and walking slowly around the town admiring the passing bikes and their dapper owners. I managed to make a few connections again, notably with Ben Cramer who was riding the 135 route and writing a feature for Town and Country magazine. He interviewed me over a glass of wine on my passion for the old stuff and the importance of the bicycle throughout history, especially Italian.

Interview with Ben from Town and Country magazine, proving that Tuscans don't only do red

I also managed to run into a newish but somehow seemingly old friend, John Pergolizzi. John was holding court as usual in the town center. Unfortunately, my extended riding time meant we didn't hook up Sunday, post-ride, but I look forward to discussing rare parts with him in the future!

The Red Devil himself, Luciano Berruti!

The man with the old Stucchi was re-introduced to me by a couple of friends who were really jockeying me into place to make a trade for the bike. This is a bike that I would go nuts for and sell most of my collection to get my hands on. Since the owner still rides, we were discussing a large amount of cash plus a new Cannondale in trade for this gem. He wouldn't budge! At least not yet. "I found it in a barn under a thick layer of dirt. There were lots of pros on the Stucchi team in my area back in the day, so this could even be a pro bike. It's in great shape, all original. You just can't put a price on it." Even though I tried! He has my info, and even says that if I bring my own wheels, he'd let me ride l'Eroica on it some day!

How many ways can I say 'I want your Stucchi' in Italian?

With that, I was off to bed early Saturday night… the support crew didn't know what was coming!

The navigator!