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One Race to Rule Them All: The Ultimate Test of Pain, Fear, and Determination along the White Roads of Tuscany.

The summer sun rises above the hills surrounding Gaiole in Chianti. Filtered through dust and grit, its rays strike the dirty faces of tenacious cyclists. Dust arises from the road like a flock of ghostly morning doves. Sweat and grime mix on the faces of eager bike riders, caking in spots, clear where drops of perspiration have run clear. Some athletes cough; others feel the sand and grit between the teeth, over the tongue. Heads hang low towards the handlebars, arms sleeved in a fine brown film.

This is one of cycling’s most exciting – and challenging – one day events.

The Heroism of L’Eroica

Tuscany Bicycle brings you to the heart of the Eroica: this single-day epic cycling classic on dirt roads. With all the logistics and planning surrounding this complex event, there is better way to travel than with the masters in the field. And the Eroica passes through Tuscany Bicycle’s heart based in Gaiole in Chianti.

More than a Bike Race

Participation in the Eroica is more than simply engaging in a bicycle race. It is a right of passage. It is the acceptance of a physically demanding and spiritually exhausting commitment. At the heart of the Eroica lies all of life’s fundamental lessons: the act of persevering regardless of the circumstances; confronting your adversary head-on; practicing patience; and enjoying the process of moving forward. Through the Eroica, we find solutions; we discover the stuff we are honestly made of.

We also uncover what makes cycling so damn exciting.

A Journey through History…

The Eroica is a return to the past. It pays homage to a world not managed by technology and data. A time of our grandfathers, who would jump on old bicycles, in jerseys of wool and cotton, to discover a different kind of network: a network of hundreds of kilometers of dirt roads connecting back yards, farmland, and vineyards. We relive cycling’s greatest years through this race – racing as it once was, as it was meant to be. The legendary battles of Coppi and Bartali; the tenacity of Girardengo; the explosive power of Bobbet; play out – kilometer after kilometer – in the living mindset of the modern Eroica participant.

Through the Eroica, we are able to learn cycling’s life-long lessons and why it entertains us so much. Cycling is the embodiment of digging deep, of searching within, of fighting through fatigue regardless of its bitter difficulty. It teaches us about pride found in self-discovery, and the necessity of personal adventure. Through the bicycle we oppose the unexpected and unforeseen, and the victory is individual development.

…And a Journey through Nature’s Garden

The Eroica is all this, and much more. Its magic and allure appear like dust from her roads. These dirt paths of Tuscany – the infamous Strade Bianche, these notorious White Roads of Tuscany – call thousands of cyclists a year to this annual event. It is the culmination of pleasure and pain; of comfort and complexity.

Because it is no surprise that the Tuscan countryside is one of the main attractions of this well-known cycling event. Over the years, more than 200 kilometers of gravel pathways surrounding Gaiole in Chianti carry thousands of athletes to the Val d’Orcia. They climb through Montalcino and the Val d’Arbia, traverse characteristic farmland and vineyards, olive orchards and pastoral grazes. The beauty of nature’s garden surrounds the brutality of the effort. The organizers and participants of the Eroica preserve the raw beauty of this land year after year to be enjoyed by all.

Genesis of The Journey

These hills are fruit of supernatural events, but the Eroica itself was the brainchild of one man.

Giancarlo Brocci, native of Gaiole, conceptualized the idea of returning bicycle racing to its primitive origins. Giancarlo (along with 92 like-minded athletic comrades) launched the first edition of the race in 1997. Since then, every year the course changes, yet the magnificent countryside and unforgettable food stay the same.

The Eroica has grown to become a true and honest movement, a mentality stretching across both language and political barriers. A network of international people and events mobilize tens of thousands of cyclists, culture seekers and culinary specialists of every age, from every part of the world. Each year, they all descend on Gaiole to drink wine, talk shop, and ride dirt.

A Global Movement

From these deep and honest roots in the hills surrounding Gaiole, something has caught fire. Because not only has the Eroica excited communities to travel to Tuscany each year, but it has also encouraged other nations to begin their own editions.

In Spain, for example, the sixth edition of the Eroica Hispania will be run next year. In partnership with the city of Harò and the Rioja Cycling Foundation, the course boasts impressive options of either 74 or 184 kilometers.  The beautiful wine district of Rioja in northern Spain is noteworthy for its incredible Tempranillo wine production and every year hosts the Harò Wine Festival. It is here, local producers compete to taste who has made the best vintage for that year.

It is a town of overwhelming architectural heritage, with the main entrance to the church of Sant Thomás (crafted by Felipe Vigarny) among some of the most noteworthy buildings. The beautiful villas and the old town center give a special harmony to the village, creating a  historic, cultural center, fit for a bike ride.  

Or imagine Japan. Eroica’s Japanese itinerary will offer 30 to 155km on challenging dirt roads. Shima Onsen welcomes the start of the race. It is a city of hot springs and ancient Asian architecture, graciously unified with flowering blossoms and apple groves of the ancient valley.

Welcome to the Club

By now, the Eroica bike race has spawned an entire culture, creating a collective thought and a way to approach adversary and challenge. The Eroica Bike Club (CCE) brings together a large collective of international cycling enthusiasts. They are passionate about antique bicycles and cycling history. It is both a team for training and a society for discussing. The CCE creates a friendly environment through a common interest and philosophy of bicycling.  They share stories of spectacular experiences, mechanical knowledge, and world-views.

Espresso, Anyone?

And what better way to meet and discuss such ideas and themes than at a café? The Eroica café.

There are three Eroica sponsored coffee shops in Europe: Barcelona, Padova in northeastern Italy and in Brolio: the heart of Chianti. These are historical locations, recalling the cafés of yesteryear with a modern and contemporary design.

L’Eroica and Covid-19 Perhaps there is no better parallel to draw from the energy and resistance needed for the Eroica dirt road race than the brutal reality we are experiencing today. At the race, thousands of eager cyclists make one powerful voice, snaking through the countryside. Yet each individual fights their own battle, through his or her own path of adventure and struggle, finishing the race in their own time. By facing the worst adversary together we get stronger. And although each clash is separate to each individual, we become more resilient to life’s cruelties and persevere.

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Gabriel Del Rossi

Gabriel is a writer and an adventure travel guide working in Europe on bicycle, hiking, skiing and kayaking holidays. You can read more about him at https://oxwriter.com/


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