Eroica 2019 by Kalle Kangas
It was an early April when I saw Mike’s post about L’Eroica. This was the first taste of what was coming in the future. Mike & I had met each other once (for couple of days) in hacker house in the Bay Area but I was always amazed about the physical challenges he put himself into. Therefore, I thought that L’Eroica has to be something I need to try. I had just completed 80km cross-country skiing race in Finland with almost 0 skiing practice. Living in The Netherlands doesn’t provide the best scenery & weather to practice for cross-country skiing, but completing this “challenge”, it prompted me to take on another challenge .... L’Eroica.
End of April I went ahead & bought a bike (yes, I did not even own a bike before committing to race L’Eroica) & the journey started. Flat ground practice in the Netherlands does not really prepare you for the hills in Tuscany but I didn’t let this bother me while preparing.
Getting closer to the race in October, I was honoured to meet & learn that there was a larger group joining the trip in Italy, which ended up being called “Squadra Eroica 2019” lead by Curtis.
It was decided the night before the race day while drinking some red wine & eating pasta made by Curtis that the distance we were going to ride is the full distance – 209 km. Why not ? Mike had travelled 3 days to get to Italy & it was my first time doing L’Eroica so why not to do the big route, hahaha. The morning started around 5:30am (if I remember correct) with a quick cup of coffee & first pictures. 3 of us (Curtis, Mike & I) wearing the classic black a white Spandex Panda Velo Club colours to show which team is not only coolest but also the best dressed ;) The early part of the ride was almost too easy which I got to learn the hard way when getting closer to the 70-80km mark. On top of that hill, the sunrise was just about as
perfect as it can be (Mike caught an amazing 360 degree video of us riding down the hills to Siena)
Mildly said my struggles started around 70km where all gravel uphills started sucking all the energy I ever had in my body. I have never experienced a moment where I thought I can fall asleep even riding a bike since I had no energy in my body. It got to a point where we thought of grabbing some grapes from the vineyard on top of a hill.
Mike & Curtis were beyond supportive always saying “the next stop is right around the corner”, the problem was that I didn’t know which corner & there were many of them, haha. BUT I kept pushing, pushing & pushing, finally getting to a pit stop where gelato, fresh foccaccia, red wine & Coca Cola has never tasted better. With that fuel in my body, we kept going & amazingly I started getting my legs back the longer the day went. For about the next 80km we “only” encountered a couple flat tires & beautiful scenery…
In the later part of route there was an unfortunate accident where Mike’s bike slipped on the loose gravel causing the now famous finger to break. This time Curtis had just took off from Mike & I trying to complete the entire race within the time limits (we were running out of time to get stamps on our event passport). Mike (who at this point was not being able to break with his left hand & was out of head light (out of battery)) was going through more than hell with me trying to find a way to survive the last 20km. We were about 180km in and my legs felt as fresh as in the beginning, which was beyond crazy.
Mike & I figured out a way to provide a light so he could see where I was riding in front of him holding my phone light on in the back pocket. Not only this, we were like a Rally Race car team where I was a co-pilot for Mike telling him where there was a hole in the road or loose gravel. Without his tough mind & good bike skills, we were not able to proceed at all.
After all these little obstacles in our day, we all survived (some more safely than others). The trip was full of great memories with the amazing group (of course including Emma who was more than an important part of our journey). And now I know how much the mind & peer support can push a person to their reach limits – thanks for this goes to Curtis & Mike pushing me to reach to the next corner.
Now it’s about time to get back on a bike & prepare for the upcoming L’Eroica events !
Until next journeys ! Saluti