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.