Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Martin's 2009 L'Eroica Adventure, Part I

Martin Appel from Germany reports on his 2009 L'Eroica adventure this past weekend in Chianti.

"L'Eroica, the Mecca for every classic vintage racing addict, had missed me up to now, or I had missed it. An unbearable situation! Now in 2009, finally no other obligations were in the way, the holiday balance still offers a few hard earned free days, and my friend Andreas’ enthusiasm supplies the necessary momentum. Gaiole in Chianti is our goal! Quick we arrange for a hotel room and post our registrations.

On the Friday before the race we load my trusty Granfondo bike carrier, the Passo di Brennero is quickly left behind and Zucchero’s “cosi celeste” soaks out of the stereo’s speakers. L'Eroica, here we come! We don’t carry a Bianchi, but my ‘61 Campagnolo equipped Rabeneick, Andreas’ borrowed Patelli Super Corsa with panto’ed Super Record and a modern cross bike we brought to explore the “strade bianche”, the dreaded gravel roads that are very common in the Tuscany and make up a major part of the course.

We manage to find our hotel and it even looks like its picture on the online booking service if you disregard the nuclear power plant right behind it. Among the guests are several combatants from Germany, France, and even the US; Robin from Seattle rode his uncle’s Olmo from the Milan airport and intends to take on the 200km distance.

A tasty supper rounds up this day, mostly consisting of “porcinos”, a local speciality. We end the day having Chianti and grappa with Robin. The conversation slowly gets more fundamental, our English more fluent, the evening longer…

On (late) Saturday morning, we go to Gaiole. This pleasant little town is filled to the brim with antique bikes, parts dealers, officials, and first and foremost with enthusiasts wearing wool jerseys. Our late registration is dealt with easily, as are the minor technical issues (”where did my money transfer end up at?!”); it takes no time at all, then we are proud owners of our starting numbers. I “register” my bike. This service is 20.-€ extra, and while the purpose remains unclear, it is a nice opportunity to meet some enthusiasts from all countries represented and to admire many stunning bikes. Also, I meet a lot of friends from real life as well as the Internet.

Then I ambush the parts market. Need a Molteni Jersey? No problem. A vintage derailleur? We have everything from a 1st generation Super Record to a Huret Champion in rusty or decent condition, also there is a Campagnolo Parigi Roubaix for sale. A Castorama Musette? A NOS Zeus or Mavic gruppo? Rubber hoods for Campy levers? We have them. Knitted Gloves? Leather shoes? Pick your size, signori. And of course complete bikes from restoration object to show condition, there seems to be nothing that isn’t available! A collectors paradise!

With an effort, i manage to restrain myself and escape with my bag only moderately full (and my pockets only moderately emptied). Overwhelmed of my own show of will power, me and Andreas have some Pasta and Chianti in the afternoon sun, then saddle or bikes for a first reconnaissance ride."

To be continued in Part II.

Photos by Martin Appel: Martin's 1961 Rabeneick, having a glass of Chianti wine, a Hetchins, drillium rear derailleur on a De Rosa, images from parts market

Stories, including cycling trip stories, for the Italian Cycling Journal welcome; contact veronaman@gmail.com. See here for a chance to win a T-shirt for submitting a ride story; contest ends October 31st.


  1. thanks ;)

    I understand it all, but not the wool shirts ;)

  2. Wonderful photo of the bike with the riders going along on the "strada bianca"! One of my dreams once I retire to Italy is to do this ride/race.

  3. do it next year, no need to retire ;)

  4. This looks like one of the coolest bike events ever.