I was very lucky to be invited along to the first edition of the Eroica Primavera by Eroica.cc. Based in the historical town of Buonconvento, where I was truly immersed into Tuscan culture and set for a weekend of adventure, education, athleticism, and gastronomical delight.
Wandering through the medieval streets of Buonconvento, the towns relationship with the bicycle is apparent. The main road through the town and all alleyways feeding into it are adorned with bicycles, from vintage single speeds to the latest carbon steeds. After a little explore of the local shops and cafes it was time to register for Sundays ride and collect my first musette of the trip. Aside from the necessities like rider numbers for the jersey and bicycle, the musette contained some fantastic Tuscan food and a taste of things to come.
That evening I got my first taste of true Tuscan hospitality and had dinner with some of the people who made Eroica Primavera possible. In one of the first alleyways running through Buonconvento, we sat and enjoyed some beautifully simple Tuscan cuisine with many bottles of unassuming vino rosso. It was at this point I started to get overly excited about Sundays ride. Inspired by tales of Eroica legend, hero, Luciano Berruti and Eroica California which took place threes weeks before the Primavera.
After a quick caffè, the vintage market was in full swing and the visitors were just as interesting as the vintage trinkets that were for sale. The stalls were full of pristine components and more woolen jerseys than I ever laid eyes on. You could walk from one end of this market to the other and collect everything you need to build the ultimate vintage steel bicycle and the outfit to go with it from shoes to helmet. Needless to say, I felt like a child in sweet shop.
For the afternoon we were taken on a gastronomic tour, starting in the luxurious Villa San Luigi with beautiful SanCarlo wines from the Montalcino area to sample. After learning about the farming history of Buonconvento in the Mezzadria Museo, we were treated to a caffè, sweet pastries and biscuits from Le Dolcezze di Nanni. This small shop in Buonconvento currently exports to Marks and Spencers in the UK, keep an eye out. They are delicious.
The final evening before the ride was spent feasting on wild boar in the company of cycling greats including Francesco Moser, Mara Mosole and Alessandra Cappellotto. Riders and members of the Lotto Soudal who had been training for the Giro d’Italia just up the road from the restaurant also came along for the evening. Time flew a little too quick and before we knew it, it was time to head back to the hotels and catch some sleep whilst the others continue to feast.
Wearing my in-period Eroica Primavera kit from Santini, I took my bike for the day, a Benotto, down to the start, ready for 102km of riding and my first taste of Strade Bianche. Despite the hard man gearing on the Benotto I was feeling good after the past few days of indulgence (just like the old pros, well maybe). Departing in our small group at around 6:45am, we were lucky enough to catch the last of the fog rising off the Tuscan hills, which was stunning. But as we approached the first 15% ascent I started to lose tension on the shifter to my rear derailleur and fell off the back of our little English contingent. Fortunately the first refreshment stop was just a small push away. A little tweak later and I was back on the road, continuing up the climb but this time on my own.
Shortly after a small victory of staying on the bicycle on the climb up to Castelgiocondo, I was not quite as lucky on the descent. The white roads of Tuscany were too much for the Benotto. My rear derailleur managed to rattle itself loose and lodge itself in the back wheel bringing me to a stop, eventually. It took me a while to come to a complete stop due the gradient of the descent and the force going through the back wheel was enough to bend the rear dropouts. So after a lot of bending and twisting I was able to retrieve the derailleur and keep it out of the way. The chain was spent and broken in two places. So I decided to roll down the hills and walk up them, it couldn’t be that far to the next checkpoint, right? A couple of hours and one tubular explosion later I reached the checkpoint. I was very glad at this point that the mechanic spoke English so I could explain the extent of the damage to the poor Benotto. After a lot of food and a lot of effort from the mechanic, this is where my Eroica sadly came to an end.
Despite my bad luck, I still thoroughly enjoyed my Eroica experience and have a lot of respect for the riders who complete the events, particularly the original 209km from Gaiole. Later in the day, we heard tales of riders breaking handlebars and after watching a lady walking through the market place with wooden wheels that looked like they had exploded, I started to consider myself lucky – I came back unscathed. I look forward to redeeming myself and more importantly, the bicycle at Eroica Britannia next month.