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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.

 

Stop. Before you read any implied criticism in the title, it is not meant to be. It’s merely a statement of fact or at least my observations. And here’s why. According to what I’ve heard from a reliable source and fellow lungo percorso finisher, Brooks England have “purchased” l’Eroica from Giancarlo Brocci and his group. I cannot verify a transaction and perhaps it’s merely the licensing of the brand, but Eroica Brittannia is the first “brand extension” that was made. The inaugural ride was earlier this year. On the heels of my learning about this purchase, I was alerted to the coming of Eroica to California. Need more proof? Just click on the link in the Blog Roll here and see what’s in store for the rest of the world.

Do I find this exciting, troubling, beneficial? Maybe all of those reactions and more. In some sense, l’Eroica can only be the event held in October in Tuscany where the old roads (strade bianchi) and the old way of life are celebrated. In another sense, why not gather enthusiasts to experience a bit about what riding was like before carbon fiber monocoque frames and clipless pedals.

It’s not as if this is the only vintage or retro ride in the world. La Mittica, Retro Ronde and La Pedals de Clip are just a few on the European continent. My reliable source, cited above, asked me why we shouldn’t have such a ride here (Oregon, United States). He was suggesting that perhaps he and I could somehow inspire others to actually put together something like l’Eroica. Perhaps he wasn’t counting the Gorge Roubaix race and Fondo to be held in the spring with 40% of the ride running over gravel roads in the ranch country of eastern Oregon.

A benefit of multiple “Eroica” rides means it perhaps takes the pressure off of l’Eroica hosting so many people. Of course, those of us who have ridden l’Eroica will probably claim that no matter what Eroica sponsored ride you participate in, you can never claim pilgrimage or full palmarès until you have ridden from Gaiole on the first Sunday in October.

l’Eroica Support Bike

Testing my 2015 entry for a l’Eroica support vehicle.
Leroica support bike

If you are looking for some early season inspiration for your l’Eroica training today’s race through Chianti is your best bet. Not only is the race run over many of the same roads as l’Eroica, but today’s winner hails from a family, a tradition, of Italian cycling greats. Moreno Moser stood atop the podium today, but the real story for l’Eroica participants is the beauty and the beast of the strade bianche. The race, appropriately christened Monte Paschi Eroica when it was first contested, has become a preview of the northern European spring classics. But, it is really a story unto itself and a reminder of what racing was like in earlier times, even though today’s bikes weigh a fraction of what those early ones did. Even so, the sterrati are great equalizers, forcing carbon-bike perched pros to adopt tactics and the grit that today’s winner’s uncle and his family had to endure.

For some photo inspiration along with race highlights, go to Steephill TV Classics.

If this is your first L’Eroica, the memory will be sweet. By now, you are probably asleep or nearly there. The rest of us who weren’t with you this year envy you and at the same time are joyful. You have carried on a great tradition.

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I keep reminding myself that it was this time last year, 2011, that I was waking up in Lecchi-in-Chianti, enjoying the sunshine and blue skies and nervously looking forward to my first ride on the strade bianchi. I had scouted a short, 30K route that made a loop from our rental home and traversed what I later learned was part of one of the shorter rides that year.

Signs declaring 15% grades with falling stones were foreboding, but after a few slips and slides, I came to love the white gravel. I returned to the house after that first ride believing I knew what lay ahead, even if it was to be 5 times the distance.

For those lucky riders planning to participate this year, spend some training time on the gravel if you don’t normally get to ride it. And, don’t forget to look up and enjoy the incredible scenery that surrounds the L’Eroica route.

A view down my first downhill sector of gravel

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Giancarlo and all the good people of L’Eroica should be honored. In the home of Fausto Coppi comes La Mitica. While I have every intention of riding another L’Eroica, I’m eager to ride this and the Retro Ronde. It’s not a slavish interest in the minutiae of vintage bicycles; it’s the culture that surrounds the period when bike racing was not dominated by expensive sponsorships, radio communication with the team, armadas of support vehicles. Don’t get me wrong. I’d jump at the chance to spend some time as a spectator at Grand Tour events. And, I watch plenty of TV coverage of the pro circuit, attend local events and read as much as I can.

But, there is something that inspires me about participating in events like this. You feel somehow more connected to the origins of the sport and to a time and place that seems original. I fight the cynic in me that says these events are produced as a way to build tourism interest, especially among people “of a certain age” who have the means to travel and harbor nostalgia for a period they probably never lived through. No matter.

It can only be a matter of time before an event like L’Eroica or La Mitica is held here in Oregon. For that, I cannot wait.

(Thanks to Rory Mason and his blog, Masini’s Breaking Away blog, for alerting me. Links to that blog, please visit it, on the home page here.)

A vintage ride in the land of Coppi