L'Eroica - Gaiole in Chianti - 2018
Updated: Dec 17, 2019
The Most SPVC Riders to date & Emma's longest ride.
Most SPVC riders yet. Emma’s long distance.
Being my 3rd time now to the Eroica in Gaiole in Chianti, I had a little bit of knowledge as to what to expect. Having Emma return from last year was going to be a great addition as I had 4 new Canadians that had heard about this & wanted to join. I soon realized that as a group grew, we would probably not all be doing the same distances & if we did those there’d be different speeds at them.
Emma being pumped after her first one last year returned with a goal in mind. Master a longer distance….the 135. Believe it or not, this course although distance wise may be shorter than the 200km option, is is equally if not more challenging based on the terrain. Well, we’d have a challenge for sure. One thing we did differently this year…. rent a car ;) Although our accommodations option was much closer than the previous year, there was still a really great & scenic switchback to get upto it.
Our 4 new additions hailed from Calgary, Canada. They had a friend who had done it in the past & thought this would be a fantastic way to enjoy the culture of Italy. Don & Sue, Dennis & Thorna were our 4, excited about what this big Italian ride would be all about. The fellas chose the 135 also & their wive & on a shorter route.
Our team was set. We all had the matching black & white SPVC knitted 100% merino jersey, SPVC merino shorts, caps, socks…. we were set.
Let’s get to Gaiole. What had we learned ? Well, the hills are unforgiving so this round, Emma rented a car, making it still exciting ripping around the roads of Tuscany, however without having to endure the same level of leg muscles to get there. We had also found a place to stay just outside of Radda, which is only about 10km from Gaiole, instead of the previous years 15 haha. This little spot had a pool, a large restaurant style area & some fairly classic old brick buildings (which meant a chilly evening was going to require a second blanket). Our first night in, we arrived just as the dinner hour was getting under way. It turned out that when we said, ‘we’ll have what they’re having’, that meant a 4 course meal was on it’s way hahaha. Well, at least there’d be a ton of hills to wear it off on. It had been a great day. We had all met in Gaiole, had a little look around & than our 4 Canadian riders had a place that was a bit in the other direction so we agreed that a we’d meet up the next day, maybe a little spin to test out the bikes or at least a few more stories of some fermented grape juice if nothing else.
It was decided that 4 of us were going to be riding the 135km course & 2 would be on a shorter one (which meant a later start, a more relaxed pace & an increased time frame to enjoy the local Chianti). In the past I had never really worried about start times. The first year it was dark & chilly when we left & the second year was sunny already & a cappuccino had been enjoyed at the local cafe. It turned out though that if you wanted to get on the ‘long courses’ of the day, well you’d have to leave before 8am, that is, if you wanted the initial stamp. By time we had all gathered at the start it was about 8:15, which you’d think wasn’t really a big deal for a ride that was going to consume the majority of your day. Turns out, the ‘stampers’ take an hour for breakfast & no initial stamps are given out till the next wave leaves at 9 AM. We took a quick vote & followed a few others, hopped over the barrier & got our adventure under way. Now I’ve always loved this event for the scenery it provides. Gentle rolling hills scattered with vineyards & now speckled with cycling enthusiasts who are on a one day challenge. You vs the clock (or more so the sun). That first climb up Brolio, still is a beautiful one, no matter what time of day it is.
My goal for this years ride was to help Emma complete her biggest challenge yet. Inspiration, photos, mechanical support, whatever was needed to get her back. The course at 135 is as tiresome, if not more challenging than the 200+ surprisingly. Shorter doesn't always mean easier we soon found out. Making sure to enjoy some of the food stops & culture on route, still get in a little socializing with fellow adventurers & making sure to snap a few memorable shots of the journey led for a great day.
Emma's persistence & determination to conquer the 135 was something else to watch. There were sections where she had to push her steel stallion up but never the less, she'd always hop back on & keep rolling. The gears & the weight on classic bikes is a regular reminder of appreciating where technology has brought bikes to these days. So many gear choices & feather light frame weights make mountain adventures a bit easier on the legs for sure.
About half way, Don & Dennis pushed on, working well together to put some miles ahead of us. Later I came to realize that they had a date with their wives at a certain spot on route & had to make sure that they weren't late. The fellas had a great day & chatting with Sue & Thorna afterwards, they loved the course they chose. No stress, lots of time to enjoy the Tuscan hills & maximize the enjoyment at the rest stations that were full of cheeses, fresh bread, fruits, nuts, cured meats and of course local wine.
No one had any major mechanicals or medical incidences making for a highly enjoyable day. It was exciting personally to see the SPVC rider base grow for this event & to share one of my favourite events with others. Needless to say the pasta & wine were the perfect ending to this day as we sat around, shared our own versions of the days adventures & thought about what routes we would choose for the following year.
Seeing some friends now that also make this a regular yearly event ads a special little touch. Each year I continue to meet new people & cross paths with friends, sharing as to what the last year has brought about for us. It's exciting to look forward to & cherish every minute that I can be there. Til the next one.