After a thoroughly enjoyable L'Eroica with Lance, Merlin and Algy McCormack in Chianti last year, topped with a fantastic inaugural l'Eroica Britannia, a return for L'Eroica 2014 was a must.
A team of three planned the route to include a last evening stop off in Champagne to celebrate a big figure birthday. All best laid plans have last minute changes. Non delivery of a new van left us using a trusty Volkswagen going by the name of Sharon.
Weeks of preparation saw a Hetchins SS, Hawkes and Holdsworth stripped, chromed or painted then rebuilt with period parts and brand new Brooks saddles. The Hetchins had some nice original parts that really didn't deserve to hit the scrap heap. Hours of cleaning and polishing by Road Rags' finest grease monkey brought them back to their best. A bit of elk skin here, new grease nipple there. Brooks saddles, period touches, everything was set.
Eurotunnel done its still a long haul through France and into Italy but 25 hours after setting off from that British cycling hub Bexley Heath we were in Gaiole in Chianti. The views are stunning and the warmth of welcome throughout this weekend runs deep in the veins of this village. 5000 cyclists descend for the ride at least 1500 from overseas plus family and friends. We were early arriving on the Thursday and enjoyed a few days of riding the hills, exploring the restaurants, coffee houses and bars. The sun shone, the food fantastic and the wines a delight. Saturday was a day of hustle and bustle amongst the numerous vintage bike stalls and registration for the following day. A few glasses of wine in the evening and a bit of pasta were followed by a later than planned night time bike check.
Come ride day, early morning preparations were swift, down to the village and by chance we joined the start queue at the front avoiding what can be a slow and chilly experience in the narrow streets of the town. A truly tremendous days riding. Fantastic views in warm late summer sunshine, the odd steep climb on the gravel paths and feast like feed stops along the way. Photo opportunities a plenty and a real camaraderie among the riders. The chalk path sections are the highlight I guess, just that little bit different to anything you experience during the rest of the year. Its a long old journey there and back for one days cycling but I cannot recommend it enough. A classic bike, retro clothing, and you are away. I went for our Hoxton with Chatsworth three quarter length trousers and a pair of Quoc Pham leather cycling shoes. There is Chianti at every feed stop but its wise to leave that to the latter stages. There is a large marquee that feeds all riders at the end, a great spot to swap stories with friends and other riders, before heading back into the town for a few well deserved beers, coffees and brandies.
Make the effort it really is worth it....