Pedalare, Pedalare, Pedalare

The above is credited to Fausto Coppi along with his brief recommendation about training, “Ride the bike.” And, that’s where most of us are in preparation for the various Eroica events for which we’ve registered. You have registered, haven’t you?

I’ve begun my own training and preparation, though most of that effort has been devoted to how I might consume food and wine at the rest stops. The riding preparation has only just begun. In looking back to last year’s California event, I realized that I started about the same time, perhaps a week earlier. And, unlike our hero Coppi and the many racing greats before, I’ve taken up a much more deliberate or pseudo-scientific approach.

It really just boils down to intervals while riding, but on a schedule that presumably accelerates the effects. I signed up with Today’s Plan and I track efforts in no less than three websites including the popular Strava, RidewithGPS, where Eroica California hosts it’s mapping information, Garmin Connect, and of course, Today’s Plan. You might think it would be better to focus on just one or two sites, but each provides something a bit different. Regardless, it’s the training that will result from the combination of information, motivation, plans, and routes that hopefully gets me up and over the Santa Lucia mountains in a few weeks.

Could we just rely on methods from Coppi’s day? Get out, ride the roads, hills, and gravel sectors and you’ll do fine. I suspect my first Eroica was just that, though I recall putting in many more days on the Brooks saddle in preparation for that in 2011. Here it is and it’s nearly embarrassing to think that I am going through these kinds of contortions when the Coppis and Bartalis of old, to which Eroica pays homage, just rode their steel bikes through the countryside. Very fast, maybe, and for long distances.

More Eroica and Eroici

I thought I’d revisit the site, originally launched just to cover the 15th edition of the ride when it was only an event in Tuscany. Now, of course, it’s spread around the world. I rode my second one last year in California and will return for the event April 7. The California ride this year will see my brother, who has ridden in Italy and completed the Limburg edition, and my good friend Jeff joining the peloton. Jeff raced a bunch of years back and became interested in l’Eroica when we discussed it over bourbon and a campfire as we returned from California last year.

That campfire conversation really concluded with an interest and commitment in Eroica Hispania. Add that to the list where Jeff and I will be, with our wives joining us for the food and wine, in Cinceros, Rioja in June. Along the theme of “more Eroica is better,” if the Britannia version happens close enough to the Hispania version, I’ll be there, too.

I never intended to ride a bunch of these, but it gets under your skin. And, the settings make wonderful excuses to haul your bike around and enjoy the roads, the food, the wine, and the camaraderie.

From Italy to California

Not long after I learned that l’Eroica had expanded to include a ride in the states, I wrote a post about it. I was quickly contacted by the organizer, Wesley Hatakeyama, who made it clear he thought that the ride would be every bit as good as the ones elsewhere including Tuscany. I had no disagreement, though I always thought that l’Eroica by definition was a ride in Italy.

Fast forward to today or this weekend and I find myself in Paso Robles, California with my Moseman bike, my l’Eroica kit and registered to ride. Today’s warm up ride over the short course corroborates everything Wes said. As a bonus, I’ll be able to speak to other riders, assuming English is their language.

The area is beautiful and having met “Bob” at the bar last night, I can imagine this will be a great ride.

Not long after my last post, I took a spill at the end of a training ride. Maybe I can blame the newfangled, post-1987 pedals that I could never use on an Eroica ride that broke on a climb. I had to turn around and go home via a route I would not have used. But like the Jimmy Buffet song says, it’s probably “my owned damned fault.” No women to blame, just rainfall and a slick spot under a bridge. In a heartbeat, my rear wheel was horizontal and so was I, tumbling to the concrete pavement. I ended up with the number one and two most common cycling injuries: road rash and a broken collar bone.

Just as I was coming into form for a season, the cruel fates sidelined me. Just as I was gaining confidence that I might be able to stay in the gruppetto in very amateur category racing, I found my arm in a sling and my kit on a hanger. That was 12 weeks ago and it’s time to see just what can be salvaged of the season.

I’m thinking that I might get my mojo back by returning to the Moseman that stood me in such good stead for l’Eroica and decades of enjoyable cycling. Perhaps the carbon fiber needs to take a rest a little while longer and the reliable steel bike returns to the sunlight. I said there was no woman to blame, but if we ascribe female genders to ships, why not bikes? If so, the Cervelo was either a cruel mistress or the Moseman was a jealous, jilted lover. Regardless, the result was the same: a crash, weeks of recovery and rehab along with streaming video of the Giro d’Italia. And, a welcome end to the obsessions of Garmin uploads to Strava.

The Spring Classics in the pro tour are viewed usually through the lens of a gray sky, often with rain or sleet or snow blowing sideways. The hardened riders, whose bicycles bounce and sometimes break over the cobblestones, grimace from faces darkened by the grit and grime of the ancient northern European roads. This romantic view has been upended by an upstart: Strade Bianche Eroica Pro nee Montepaschi Strade Bianche nee Monte Paschi Eroica.

The pro peloton rolls along a sector of gravel

Begun in 2007 under the watchful eye of Giancarlo Brocci, Italy entered the Spring Classics fray with an early season race that included many sectors of “white gravel,” the strade bianche. This is often run under Chianti’s spring skies with more dust than mud and more blue above than gray.

This year’s version, Saturday, March 7, leaves San Gimignano and finishes, appropriately, in Siena. In just a few short years, this potential “Monument” has attracted many of the top riders in the pro peloton with familiar names raising their arms at the finish including Fabian Cancellara.

If you are fortunate enough to have access to the telecast, it will inspire you to give the “fondo” version of the ride a try. Or, if by some unlikely chance you are a pro racer and entered in this year’s event, good luck.

That headline is both literal and figurative. It is a struggle to get registered, unless you are of Medicare age. One of my work colleagues said she had successfully signed up. I admire her. She no doubt stayed up late into the night or early morning. But the real struggle, once you have submitted your form and money, is the training for the ride. Sure, some registrants are on their bikes all year anyway. They won’t need much extra effort. But, many of us find that the act of registering is a foundational act for training.

Like a vestigial organ or limb, registration time at l’Eroica gives me a certain boost. Today, I rode over the first stretch of gravel that was my training ground four years ago. Every pedal stroke, every labored breath reminded me of the trepidation I had about the ride. Could I complete it? The reports make it sound challenging. Was I up to it?

To really prepare for l’Eroica, whether you are an accomplished cyclist or not, you have to consider the struggle, the challenge. I think this video should be inspiration.


If there is a symbolic difference between the age of the steel bike and the more recent developments in titanium, aluminum, carbon fiber, not to mention wood and bamboo, it must be the slow disappearance of the Frame Pump. According to the Velominati, there can be only one exception to abandoning the Frame Pump and it comes with quite a few requirements. Although I do not follow those rules in full, I do qualify for coverage under Rule 30 by carrying a Silca frame pump and, yes, it has a Campagnolo metal head, on the Moseman. I didn’t know I was making the correct choice 30 years ago, but I’m now very relieved that I did.

But, I am no retro-grouch and as recent readers will see, I’ve embraced the duality of the cycling enthusiast of a certain age: traditional brazed steel and full carbon fiber monocoque frame and fork. And, I’ve made a halting move to eliminate the Frame Pump on the R3 by carrying CO2 cartridges, albeit in a seat pack in direct violation of all things the Velominati hold dear.

While CO2 cartridges work just fine, at least if applied correctly and you only need one or two on a ride, the modern cyclist is left looking over his shoulder. I carry two at a time, but always wonder what happens if I goof up with the first, use the second, then have another flat? Should I carry the discrete mini pump in the pocket of my kit as a backup? If so, what’s the point of CO2?

I’ve concluded that CO2 is fine for jaunts around town or within close proximity to light rail, buses and taxi cab territory. For longer rides, it’s better to enjoy CO2 in that certain malt beverage recovery drink than as an inflator of punctured tires.

You will be needing one of these. photo:bike tester.com

Approved for Frame Pumps. From Velominati.com. photo:bike tester.com


l’Eroica USA responds

A Wesley Hatakeyama commented on my post “The Commercialization of l’Eroica” with the following. I publish it here, directly, in a post because comments can often be unseen. And, I think it’s important enough to lift it from the place of just a comment about my own ramblings.

L’Eroica California is organized with the same sprit as the original L’Eroica in Gaiole in Chianti, Italy. The founder Giancarlo Brocci personally came here to Paso Robles,California and he has ridden our “White-Roads” on a bicycle and approved the routes himself. He is very passionate about spreading the L’Eroica sprit to the world. The Brooks did indeed purchase theL’Eroica name, but they are actually helping Giancarlo and his group in Italy to spread the spirit of L’Eroica so the people who can not travel to Italy can experience it in their own country. We are here to offer that experience. We are working very close with Giancarlo and his Italian group to bring the experience that is very similar to L’Eroica in Italy. Well, obviously we can’t duplicate the history, but we have the same spirit.
So before you talk down about our event please come and experience it yourself and be the judge of it.
Our goal here is to preserve our own “unpaved back roads” of California Coastal Mountains and share the wonderful world of vintage cycling.
Also we are working with Hospice of San Luis Obispo (100% volunteer based Hospice) and a part of proceeds from L’Eroica California will benefit this wonderful Charity.
If you have any questions or comments please feel free to contact us.

As I said in my opening sentence on that post, and will repeat here for clarity, I am neither “talking down” l’Eroica USA nor criticizing the attempts to bring the l’Eroica spirit to other rides around the world. I think it’s a great gesture. As I said, the two  three of us here in Portland, Oregon who have ridden it have had similar thoughts about organizing an “Oregon” l’Eroica. I wish the organizers good luck and I hope a strong turnout. I cannot be there, but I’m sure others will report on the joys and struggles. I would make a modest suggestion, though, that the organizers look to Oregon for the ideal environment for a l’Eroica USA ride. We have the overly enthusiastic bike community, some great gravel roads–look at the route for Gorge Roubaix–and enough good beer and wine to make any “ristoro” a welcome stop along the percorso.

I stand by my position, though, that you can ride anywhere in the world on any l’Eroica event, but you must ride l’Eroica from Piazza Ricasoli on an early October morning and return that afternoon. It is a singular experience.

Perhaps as a sort of voodoo ritual to ward off advancing decline, I have regressed to a point more than 30 years ago. I’ve registered to race. The impulse was generated watching my son-in-law, not that many years my junior, race cyclocross these past two seasons. In Oregon and elsewhere, cyclocross is not the serious, but somewhat less demanding, off-season sport for amateurs and pros. Here, it is part race, part side show and part beer bash. Occasionally, there is a costume party. The more I observed, the more I became curious and, perhaps in a misguided way, thought that I might be able to compete. I then realized that I would need a cyclocross bike since none in the stable are really capable of being raced through the mud and muck of that kind of course. Since these impulses typically occur at the end of the season, it was obvious that the racing bug would have to wait for a new bike and another year or . . . .

Sign up for some other kind of racing. The obvious and surely the safest would be the time trial. Lucky for me, a local clinic is offered in just two weeks. I quickly registered with the local sanctioning body, Oregon Bicycle Racing Association, booked a spot in the clinic and promptly, and coincidentally, caught a bad cold. Holidays and the cold interrupted a decent jump on off-season training, so I looked a bit farther down the calendar. And, there it was. The Gorge Roubaix.

The name implied, and the description of the course confirmed, that this was a race partially over rough roads, the Oregon version of the strade bianchi. With more than three months in front of me, I figured what could be more suitable? And, there was always the option of violating a Velominati rule of some kind, wimping out and riding the difficult Fondo version of the race, the Gorge Gravel Grinder, on Sunday.

Now, I find myself in that somewhat terrified state of four years ago when I registered for l’Eroica. I’ve signed up for something that I’m not really sure suits me. Will I be pushing my 2-wheeler up a dusty gravel track, wondering whether I’ll get back to the starting line before dark? Or, will I find myself under a pile of carbon, aluminum and steel in some crucial turn near the end? Perhaps a pile up caused by my own lack of experience? More to follow.

Whither 60 years-of-age?

For l’Eroica, it’s obvious. You do not have to worry about registering by staying up half the night to get in the internet line. Unless the rules have changed, anyone 60 years-old and up can register for the event regardless of the total number of registrants. I presume the organizers know that there aren’t that many of us who will want to ride. But, looking at the pictures of the event, you may wonder if anyone “under” that age is registered.

Another value or state of reaching such an age is the Landmark Birthday Gift. At least, for me that was the case. It was an easy choice for my wife, who simply said, “I want you to get a new bike.” The sub-text was that this may be the last bike you will get to buy, unless we’re talking about a used beater for going to the grocery store. Or, put another way, the gift would close the door on the Velominati Rule 12 proposition.

It felt like cheating, though, to consider a new bike. The Moseman pictured on this site has served me well for more than 30 years. Would I be turning away from an old friend, a trusted partner, in favor of some bright shiny object? Yes, and no. In the end, I had to at least get a taste of modernity. My choice? A Cervelo R3 (Ultegra build). The choice seemed congruent since that particular frame has been used in the Spring Classics, which run over some less-than-modern roads. Good excuse, though, right?

I suppose I might have gone with another steel bike, perhaps a more contemporary ride with all the latest components. But, I decided to go all out, at least at that price point. I cannot say there is no going back. I will be back on the Moseman again. I just don’t know when. But, at 60, my l’Eroica options are wide open.

What you get when you turn 60.

What you get when you turn 60.