Riding L'Eroica in Chianti
The first feed station at around 50k out was a little further than many would have liked, but the offerings were (as always) truly splendid. Meats, cheeses, local bread dipped in salt with honey, jam or red wine.
Water and Chianti to drink.....
A little early for the Chianti, we headed on, discussing whether to take the turn off for the 75km route or keep on the 135km route.
The previous night had taken it's toll (read about that here in Part 1) and no decision was required as we soon realised we had missed the turn and were on the 135km route, like it or not! It was only 8.30am and I felt like I had a whole day behind me already. A long ride on the flat was never going to last and we were soon climbing once again, passing those with punctures and more serious mechanicals.
Various support vehicles are in attendance, all vintage and in great condition.
More Hills, More Chalk Roads... & A Local Stew
Cycling up hills, stopping for photos, taking a drink, you get to meet people of all ages and from all countries. The bikes and attire that you see through the day, the scenery, the food, it all just keeps you smiling and lessens the pain.
More hills, more chalk roads, the descents can be tricky and the rutted nature of the roads keep you hunting for the flat like the Paris Roubaix.
Feed stops come, feed stops go, a local priest is in one square - I wish I had asked him to bless my tyres.
There is no racing amongst the majority of people, just a desire to complete the race and enjoy. We stopped for a coke in Asciano, loved the local stew at the second feed station and it was still great at the third.
Fresh grapes and bananas - they never run out! Each station staffed with happy, smiling helpful people.
The last climbs were tough and our group had split. I was with a pal who was riding a 70's Raleigh that was constantly admired by the Europeans in a way you don't really get in the UK.
Service or no service, if you lose grip on the chalk it's hard to get going again so it's a real trudge to the top.
Accidents at L'Eroica
We saw quite a few accidents this year. Is the L'Eroica dangerous?
Considering there are 7000 riders, I would say not. Pay attention on the descents, give room to those directly in front in case of mishap, ride to your ability and ensure your bike is in good condition. Most return home unscathed.
No 'Buon Amore' (Just A Rush Of Blood To The Head)
The 135km was tough, the back leg into the Ricasoli Vineyards and the climb past Castello Di Brolio took it's toll.
We stopped at the Cafe Ricasoli covered in chalk, sweat and oil, had a beer and chatted to a couple of guys in fine emerald jerseys with white shamrocks.
I was still listening to their exploits as we re-mounted, when my remaining partner of the day (who shall remain nameless) had a sudden rush of blood to the head. I looked up, he was gone! No "buon amore" here!
A late grasp for glory, he had shot off towards Gaiole as I was trapped in conversation, next seen the other side of the finish line. I have never witnessed such treachery! The man I had pulled around the course all day was resplendent in glee for his ill-gotten gains, and the "Ricasoli Dash" will be a feature for next year that's for sure....
Pasta Party & Going Home
A great day was followed by a long and happy evening, not only in the town with the pasta party and a late night pizza from the best pizza place in town, but then back at home with our old friends, Batiste and Rina, who were still awake waiting for our return.
How kind, how generous they are!
Gaiole is back to normal within hours. By Monday lunchtime little remains, except banners and railings.
Breaking up our journey in France we chose to stop at Troyes. What a wonderful surprise! An old Roman town, with many half-timbered houses from the 16th Century and cobbled streets. A fine meal at "Felix" and an unusual cherry beer near by made this an added pleasure to our journey.
A couple of stops the following day at smaller growers in the Champagne district meant a heavier load across the channel and back home.
L'Eroica in Chianti really has you coming back every year.
It is a lot of driving, but an event that has become a road trip and all the better for that.
Thanks to Ben, Mandy, Batiste, Reni, Gaiole and L'Eroica 2017.
See you next year!