L’Eroica is a very special event on the Italian cycling calendar and our favourite, for many reasons. Whether it’s because we consider it our spiritual home, the place where it all began for us with our Italian Cycling Tours, or because it is absolutely the spiritual home of Italian vintage cycling, there is a spirit and magic about L’Eroica in Gaiole in Chianti that can only be felt by being here on the first Sunday in October.
This year we celebrated the spirit and magic of L’Eroica with a group of 12 friends who booked out our entire L’Eroica Cycling Tour over 12 months ago. This was a special group who embraced the hills of Chianti with passion and strength; they had done the training and were here to enjoy all that our lead-up rides deliver in preparing them for whichever course they would choose to ride for L’Eroica.
Preparation is key to getting the most out of your L’Eroica experience and our lead up rides do that with getting you accustomed to the different feel, position and gear ratios on your steel machine, early in the week. The rides also expose riders to some of the terrain in Chianti that is similar to what they will ride on the day.
The group rode vintage steel machines all week, ranging from Benotto’s to Moser’s and Viner’s, and enjoyed the unique riding experience that a vintage steel bike delivers. As for the day itself, it was smiles all round after completing the 135km ride, while taking in 58km of Strade Bianche, on their now beloved machines.
There was much talk within the group about their surprise with just how good their steel bikes were to ride and about the possibility of getting them back home. Damian still remembers his first L’Eroica and being amazed at how quiet the bikes were, and how beautifully they descended. You can easily become addicted to the beauty of the steel machines.
A huge part of the spirit of L’Eroica is about embracing the ethos of the event, and our group did that beautifully, all purchasing woollen jerseys, old school shoes, and many also buying ‘goggles’ and vintage eyewear that are iconic in the market of L’Eroica.
The market is an integral component to L’Eroica in Gaiole in Chianti. Starting off on Monday with a sole trader setting up, it keeps building during the week until there are 50 plus stalls selling all things vintage cycling. This is a place where you can happily walk around and get lost for hours.
Similar numbers of stalls line the streets selling an amazing array of food and wine from across the region, making for a fun day out, all while listening to bands playing and people watching.
Over the week, our guests watch the town of Gaiole in Chianti transform from a quiet, Tuscan village of some 800 inhabitants and few tourists to a mecca of all things vintage cycling, with over 20,000 people from all over the world joining in the festivities and enjoying the special atmosphere of L’Eroica. It is a transformation that is also embraced and loved wholeheartedly by the locals of Gaiole in Chianti and is part of what makes the atmosphere of the event so special.
The food and wine experience of our L’Eroica cycling tour is diverse and broad in tastes, as with all of our other Italian cycling tours. L’Eroica coincides with the harvest of the region’s famous Chianti wine and the beginning of the porcini mushroom, truffle and cinghiale or wild boar season, so our daily menu is a celebration of Chianti’s seasonal local produce and the special people behind its flavours.
Even our non riding partners enjoyed a cooking class with Nonna in her Tuscan farmhouse, learning the special techniques of la cucina Toscana and realising just how much goes into bringing out the very best flavours of the fresh produce used in Tuscan cooking.
There is a truly international field of riders coming to L’Eroica, with plenty of people from other European countries, England, Japan and the US adding to the many Italians riding. The one thing that is consistent is the happy smiling faces which give off a contagious buzz in the village and out on the road. The camaraderie here is like nowhere else.
The ride: L’Eroica XXIII
The 23rd edition of L’Eroica was just sensational with it being the first dry L’Eroica for quite a few years. An early morning start was in order as always, with a caffé before we started rolling just after 6am. As the darkness faded away, the sun battled to break through the fog and the mist. Every corner we turned, there was just another magic vista as we made our way to Siena.
The sun finally broke through and we were bathed in a superb soft light just before our first refreshment stop.
It was a difficult decision as to whether to have the plum or apricot tart, before or after the banana. Damian quickly decided that he shouldn’t discriminate and had both.
The combination of changing landscapes and levels of fog and mist as we rode through the Crete Senesi provided incredible scenery, and each refreshment stop seemed to get better with different hearty soups and local Chianti wine. The finish to the ride is always nice, with people against the barriers cheering you on to the finish. Just magic.
And then there is the fun of absorbing the atmosphere of the piazza and recounting the epic journey you have just had on the Strade Bianche. Salute to our great group who embraced every aspect of this sensational week, enjoying this true vintage festival of cycling.
Only 3 spots left available for L’Eroica 2020
As the only tour operator based in Gaiole in Chianti, the home of L’Eroica, with an 8 day tour and an idyllic villa located only 400m from the event village and piazza of Gaiole, our guests enjoy a very unique experience. Our tour starts 6 days before the L’Eroica ride and is designed to give our riders the very best preparation possible on their vintage steel bikes, in the hills and on the Strade Bianche of Chianti. We only have 3 spots left available for our L’Eroica Cycling Tour in 2020 so if you’d like to join in the spirit and magic of this tour, visit our tour page for more information or secure your spot now.