Bigger team, different perspective
This would be my second adventure on the White Roads around the Tuscan hillsides. A much different perspective as I had two mates that were new to this style of a ride. Kris Riddell I have known since our university days & it worked out that he was living in Germany at the time. He was already planning on making the trip out with his family for the weekend so having a few riding buddies wouldn’t hurt.
Emma Fenton & I had met in London. I explained to her a bit about Spandex Panda Collection, it’s Italian influence & how it has been focused with merino as the base material. Some of the inspiration came from events I attended like the Eroica in Gaiole in Chianti & she loved the idea. There’s no better way to understand than to immerse yourself in it, get some of the clothing & try it out for herself.
‘Well, it gets dark quickly and that ‘easy ride’ was anything but that.’
Kris had a place right in the town of Gaiole which seemed like a great idea. Problem was about 5000 other people agreed so availability was often limited. Emma & I stayed at a ‘glamping’ spot, called Orlando. On the map, it seemed like a fairly close kinda ride in. Turns out google maps was a bit off. It was about 15km & there were some pretty solid climbs just to get there. We arrived in the afternoon on Friday, got our registration package, had a beer & than walked around a bit. Based on how dark it gets when the sun sets we decided to make our way to our ‘glamping’ location at a decent time. Well, it gets dark quickly & that ‘easy ride’ was anything but that. Hahaha ahh the things you learn. It was the first time that I had ever seen the wild Cingale cross my path. Those are the wild boars that roam the countryside. They are always a premium in the local butcher shops if you can order them & quite delicious. The tradeoff, these wild creatures are also dangerous. This one had 3 babies with her as she crossed the road in front of me. I’ve heard local stories of these animals killing dogs & injuring people if their paths were crossed. Needless to say I was quite happy that they continued on their journey.
My goal was to convey some local knowledge of the area that we could enjoy, make sure everyone had an idea what to expect & continue to spread the fun of the Spandex Panda Velo Club.
There just never seems like enough time to enjoy it all. Seeing familiar faces around the market place was fantastic. It’s funny that the relationships you make at an event like this can blossom into something bigger in the future, but at the time, you just enjoy it.
Saturday we enjoyed the market. So many great bikes to look at, parts to decide on, clothes to add to the wardrobe. We made sure to ride up to the winery Mike & I had stayed at the previous year, the 5km climb. Surprisingly, for me, it felt easier than the year previous. Maybe because I knew what to expect ? The views were magnificent at the top & the wine tasting, well that was the icing on the cake. You might as well take in the ‘local culture’, so that’s what we do. Now a little ride back to town & time for pasta.
We had decided that the 80km distance would be enough of a challenge for us. And so the adventure begins. We leave & that first good climb up to Brolio, although does look different in the daylight, is still a great challenge. Now our goal is to enjoy those rest stops & take in the views of the Tuscan countryside. The roads at one point did become a little slick from a shower or two that came by. This one descent, Kris & I were together on, had about 4 or 5 sharp turns back & forth, requiring some braking power & on older bikes, being able to stop is a bit different than modern day technology. As we get to the bottom, I was behind Kris when I noticed one of his tires looked a bit funny?
He had a set of tubular tires on & had chosen to use the tape instead of the glue to attach them.
As we descended, the friction on the rim heated up the glue on the tape & going around the corners forced the tires to slowly shift. They stayed on which was a good sign, but we stopped, pulled them off & put fresh tape on again. Back on the road.
This year I loved the social side of the ride. We met up with some of the Raleigh team & enjoyed some stories over a bottle of our Eroica wine.
On the course we met up with frame builder Massimo & Team Faggin who were riding their 70th Edition bikes. Wow do they make some great bikes still & I know it’s on Emma’s list. I still have the polaroid that Silvio & Luca took of me at their Cycled booth where they turn old, used tires into wearable items like belts & keychains. A couple of beauties. Getting to meet Alex from the Steel Vintage booth after seeing his bikes online was pretty sweet also.
The pasta dinner at the end was fantastic, as it was the year before. A chance to sit, eat, drink a bit more Chianti & re-live some of the stories of the day. We did have a shuttle to drive us back which did make for a bit easier of an evening. Wow what a difference the course can make. Having a great squad that completely embraced the 'adventure' of the Eroica, soaking in every moment of classic cycling culture we could.
We said bye to Kris that night as the next day Emma & I ventured to a train station that was a bit further north. Turns out that was easier to get to than heading back to Siena.
Another great Eroica. Different for sure & a very enjoyable one. Making new friends & seeing some faces from my previous trip is starting to put this place on the map as an annual adventure. Looking forward to returning in the future to meet up with friends I made here & continue to share the magic that the white roads of Tuscany bring.
Eroica in Gaiole in Chianti …. Round 2.