What is L'Eroica Gaiole in Chianti?
It is for those of you who enjoy a mix of vintage style with a bike ride through some of the most beautiful scenery imaginable.
Based around a tiny Tuscan municipality that was voted 'Europe's most idyllic place to live', this is a weekend that is hard to better.
Getting To This L'Eroica Event
The Road Rags team have attended quite a few now and the rides never fail to impress us.
It's more than a 2000 mile round trip for me. Having driven non-stop last year (hurtling down a motorway with no sleep is not the way to reach a bike ride that is supposed to be a pleasure) this time we decided to break the journey and make it a pleasurable road trip rather than a manic race to get there.
Staying in Geneva on the way down our kind host, living on the banks of the lake, cooked a splendid barbeque. Well rested, next day we were off through the borders, the early mountain scenery giving way to flat, arable farm lands and tree nurseries that went on for mile after mile.
We arrived mid-afternoon at FUG and met our lovely hosts Batiste and Rina, who have an organic farm near Montegonzi.
Throughout our stay they could not have been kinder or more attentive. Time spent chatting with them about how they have renovated the farmhouse, their agricultural year, the history of their olive trees and their plans for the future was always fascinating and humorous. The food they made for us was delicious (Rina also offers traditional culinary classes) and their gentle way makes FUG a pleasure to visit.
We had a drink with customers and friends at our favourite bar on Saturday night... though in hindsight possibly we drank a little too much, considering the events ahead!
Moretti beer, Aperol and coffees with brandy were steadied by fabulous Pizza's from Pizza.IT.
The Morning of L'Eroica
On the morning of L'Eroica Rina served breakfast at 4.30am for our early departures.
A huge benefit of arriving early to the race is being able to watch the village of Gaiole in Chianti come alive. Its a quiet, beautiful place for most of the year but with 7000 riders, families and friends arriving the streets become lined with food vendors, clothing and bicycle stall holders all selling their wares. The roast pig cheeks served by a gentleman who had obviously sampled too much of his own Chianti will never be forgotten!
So it was with a fuzzy head we were up early with bikes already prepped and in my van. A lovely breakfast from Reni, a short drive to Gaiole, easy parking and then to the Via Roma and the start gate.
No queing at this time of day!
The Start Of L'Eroica
Off up towards the Barone Ricasoli vineyards via a long steady climb then onto the first section of white road, a short steeper climb lit with candles that add a truly magical touch to the start of a long day.
Out across the Strade Bianche its the first real chance we have to settle in and look around. Previous years we have started later, but this early departure at first light meant no opportunity to look at the huge array of vintage steel bikes on show.
Fixed wheels from the early 1900's mixed with paratrooper cycles and delivery equipment, tandems and more. Hetchings, Freddie Grubb and Raleigh rubbed shoulders with plentiful Colnago, Bianchi and Gios.
All manner of cycling dress is on show. We spotted elegant ladies, caped policeman, club and professional jerseys from many decades. Sporting Quoc Pham shoes, our very own Road Rags Chatsworth 3/4 length trousers and Hoxton Top I am well equipped to handle the cold start before the warmer weather expected later in the day.
The scenery is truly stunning, the changing light of the rising sun playing on the ploughed fields lined by the Italian Cypress trees that epitomise the Tuscan region.
See Part 2 of L'Eroica in Chianti, to find out what it is like to ride this event (hint: it involves cycling uphill, beautiful local stews at the feeding stations and what has become known as the 'Ricasoli Dash'.)
Or, if you want something different, discover here why our clothing was mentioned in the Telegraph!