You will forgive me my recent silence, no doubt, with the start of term, new modules, oh, and a little trip to Italy at the beginning of October to witness L’Eroica, the annual event that celebrates the golden age of ‘heroic’ cycling.
For a few days each autumn, the small village of Gaiole in Chianti is transformed by an event which encompasses the town, surrounding villages, and everyone in the community, as 4,000 cyclists and their families arrive for the weekend. A vintage bicycle ride takes place partly on ‘white’ gravel roads, where Fausto Coppi and other Italian cycling legends once practiced their skills. Participants at L’Eroica must ride a bicycle made prior to 1987, and all components must be original to the bike or at least to the era. They choose between four routes: 38km, 75km, 135km or a near impossible 205km.
I was amazed at the wide range of different ages and nationalities of all those riders who became transformed, by wearing old cycling gear, into ‘heroes’ of the past. However, it is more than vintage tops and retro caps that gives this group their collective identity: They are united by a set of values, such as dismissing the mass-produced, throw away commodities of the fast-paced present, a belief in preserving the tools and craftmanship of the past (the bikes have been beautifully restored), and an approach to sportsmanship that values hard work and effort above individualism: At L’Eroica there is no price for coming first, rather, anyone who manages to complete his or her chosen distance is considered a winner. The feeling of togetherness comes not just from practicing the same sport, but from mutual support and assistance at roadside tire changes or a push up a hill by those who are suffering the least. Such values are enacted and embodied by the cyclists on the day of the race where – this year in a gruelling 28 degrees celsius – they start cycling at dawn, not to return until late in the afternoon or early evening.
I took some pictures of riders and their bikes as they returned and crossed the finish line after a day of heroic cycling. More pictures here