Bicycling Magazine recently named L’Eroica, an amateur cycling race on the strade bianche (white roads) in the hills of Tuscany, as one of “50 Rides of a Lifetime.” Having taken part in this zany race a few years back, the Ciclismo Classico team can definitely agree. Held every fall, L’Eroica features only vintage bikes (pre-1987) and often vintage outfits (think leather shoes). The full race traverses 130 miles (there are four routes of varying distances) with an elevation gain of 11,000 feet. Oh and did we mention that the majority of the time is spent on dirt roads?
On the October race morning at 5:20 a.m., six adventurous Ciclismo Classico tour guides left from Gaiole in Chianti all geared up with wool jerseys, tubulars carried on our body, leather helmets, thin leather shoes and very old bikes with toe cages and gears almost even impossible to conceive for a bike ride nowadays.
To explain what it feels like to ride for nearly 12 hours on dusty Tuscan roads, with uncomfortable shoes, pedals and very old handlebars with hard hoods is very difficult, especially given the fact that the climbs were at times very steep. The terrain didn’t allow us to climb standing out of the saddle for the bad grip on dirt road and the gears we used were so “crazy” that the revolutions per minute were way lower than recommended but this is the way the pioneers of cycling used to bike. On top of that, all the descents were not so enjoyable due to the bumpy and dirt terrain with the result that we ended up with sore back, neck, hands and feet!
But to give us some relief, we enjoyed the traditional refreshments and beverages Tuscan cyclists depended on in years gone by: ribollita soup, bruschetta with Tuscan olive oil, Chianti wine, biscotti and Vin Santo, salumi, Pecorino cheese and more. We all finished by 5 p.m., exhausted but happy for having accomplished such a hard task.
If you have a group of cyclists raring to try L’Eroica this year or next, Ciclismo Classico can put together a custom cycling tour for you and your group, featuring this historic race and other amazing Tuscany biking experiences.