We went on a trip to Gaiole in Chianti, famous wine region of Tuscany, for the Eroica vintage cycling event. The first impression is, of course, the stunning location: the Chianti region, which has a natural landscape of hills, vineyards and olive trees between the cities of Pisa, Lucca, Siena, Florence, Arezzo, to mention but a few of the popular destinations for visiting tourists. The small town of Gaiole has a characteristic atmosphere, ideal to hold a vintage event; it’s one of those places where time seems to have stopped 50 years ago.. The event has become so popular that now, the organisers have limited entries to the number of 5500 cyclists to make sure the event runs smoothly, safely and under control. We must say that there are not many accomodation facilities in the nearby vicinity of Gaiole, however the closer ones are stunning agritourisms on top of hills or inside old castles overlooking breathtaking landscapes. One of ones we stayed in, was the Villa Dievole, a stunning ancient villa, owned by wine and olive oil producers, located in Vagliagli, a small town at about 20 minutes away from Gaiole. (The swimming pool overlooking the stunning landscape – Delicious breakfast selection at Villa Dievole) On the Eroica event day, cyclists challenging themselves to the longer distances (over 200 or 135km) have to be at the start between 5:00 to 7:00 am, to make sure they have time enough to complete their ride before it gets dark. The other cyclists, riding the shorter routes (75 or 38km) can have a later start and take the journey with a more relaxed attitude, without worrying too much about their finishing time. In the meantime, once the cyclists have started, the atmosphere in the town grows. Local bands play music and entertain all the spectators, gazebos full of vintage bicycle parts, surrounded by people wanting to build a bike for next year’s edition, and the smell of barbecue and delicious local food. Towards lunchtime the first competitors start to arrive back in town and, to their surprise, a bottle of Chianti and a few goodies are waiting for them as they cross the finish line..a well deserved prize! Something that makes the Eroica unique and challenging, is that a good part of the route includes riding on the “strade bianche”, proper country trails used for the wine and oil producers to access their terrain, some of which are as steep as 18% gradients, tough to climb on the old heavy bicycles with very limited gear selections. The Eroica has been the first to start a series of vintage events all over the world, giving a second life to old bicycles and parts found left unused in old houses, cellars and grandparent’s garages.
We recommend anyone who’s considering starting cycling, to go and see or even better, to participate in a vintage cycling event as it’s more fun and relaxed, compared to a typical modern cycling sportive. Other recommendations: 1) Plan your trip well in advance: Limited number of entries means the event fills up quickly. 2) Vintage bicycle: Make sure you prepare and ride your vintage bike for a while to get used to it. 3) Vintage clothing: They’re not compulsory, but they’re a fun part of these events, although as per the bike, you need to try them for a few rides to get used to, making sure you stay comfortable for the length of the ride. Woolly jerseys and the old Chamois padded shorts, add an extra challenge.. 3) If possible stay there the whole week leading up to the event, as this way you can get used to riding on the strade bianche, explore the wonderful surroundings and sample the delicious local food and wines. For any more information and tips, don’t hesitate in writing to us here below. Hope to see you at the next vintage cycling event, all the best and.. keep on riding! More photographs: https://plus.google.com/photos/103727600511146852313/albums/6071196230693495073