Archive for October, 2013

26
Oct
13

L’Eroica

It would be stretching the truth at bit to say that I “just” got back from a trip to Italy – I’ve been back since the second week in October. I have, however, just gotten around to sorting through my pictures and figuring out how to show them to folks in a way that won’t bore them senseless. No one wants to read a sleep-inducing travelogue about some yutz (i.e. me) in a smelly wool jersey who decided to spend ten days with a bunch of crazy Australians, eating and drinking his way across some of the most gorgeous parts of Italy. And, more to the point, I’m really not up to writing that story quite yet.It took me 8 hours to ride this....

No, I figure that everyone would probably rather see pictures.

What follows is a photo record of my trip to Tuscany to ride in a Gran Fondo known as L’Eroica.  L’Eroica is an event that celebrates the “heroic” age of cycling – with a strong emphasis on vintage bikes and, in some cases, vintage riders. L’Eroica is run over the white gravel roads – the strada bianche – that criss-cross the region and connect the local farms and vinyards. Begun in 1997 with 82 riders, L’Eroica has grown in size and stature, with over 5,000 riders participating in 2013.

What you see here doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of what a visit to Tuscany has on offer or what the L’Eroica means to a growing group of dedicated cyclists.  The Big Life Lesson to take way from the experience is this:  L’Eroica is just inconceivably cool.

How I got to Italy and to L’Eroica also deserves a little bit of explanation.  The Other Big Life Lesson that I learned from this trip is one should always travel with Australians.  Australians are boon companions and always up for something fun.  Plus, you will never run out of beer.  I booked my trip with Peloton Cycling Tours (http://www.pelotoncyclingtours.com/) from (I think) Queensland, Australia. Run by Ashley Pettit, who is an absolute top bloke, Peloton Cyclng Tours put together a first class package of riding, bike stuff, and dining that made for a very memorable trip.  All of the cool things that you see below – and, really, I’m only capturing a fraction of it – were arranged by Ashley.

Nice Digs, Eh?

Castel Bigozzi – Home Sweet Home. Located about 30 minutes outside of Siena, Castel Bigozzi was our home base for the week. Built in the 1200s and located on the top of a hill that is surrounded by vinyards, you can’t get more Tuscan than this.

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The view from my room.

This is one of the coolest shops on the planet.

Ashley arranged for the group to visit two local framebuilders. Here we are disrupting work at Crisp Titanium. Darren Crisp (the guy in the white shirt on the right) is a fellow American. We visited his fantastic new shop that is located in the hills of historic Castiglion Fiorentino in the province of Arezzo, Tuscany. Darren designs and builds wicked cool titanium bikes. He’s also a fabulously nice guy, makes a mean espresso, and cheerfully put up with questions from a certain novice framebuilder. Check out his bikes: http://english.crisptitanium.com/

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Siena, Italy. Forget Rome, this place is ‘effing gorgeous.

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Me and Erik Zabel at a coffee shop in Gaiole, the day before L’Eroica. While Ashley arranged for just about everything on the trip, he didn’t exactly arrange this. He did, however, take the picture. (Thank you Ashley) In case you are wondering, Zabel is the guy on the left.

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The start of L’Eroica, 5:30am. Yes, it is dark. We were all crammed into the main street in the start town of Gaiole waiting for the offical “Bon Voyage” (wait, that’s not Italian..) and to get our “Passport” stamped. While we were waiting me and my Aussie buddy Dave were interviewed by a TV crew. The guy with the microphone went on and on asking us about our “passion” for cycling and L’Eroica. I’m afraid that I wasn’t terribly “passionate” at that hour of the morning. What I really wanted was a cup of coffee. The bike? That’s Old No. 1, the first frame that I brazed up last year.

UPDATE: The video showed up on YouTube – you can find it here.  I make an entrance at about 1:10.  Dave makes his appearance a little later.  I look and sound like I’m utterly deranged.

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Me and my Aussie buddy Dave early in the L’Eroica. The first hour or so of the ride – including some dirt sections – were in the dark. The organizers wisely required lights. Dave is riding what is probably the crappiest bike in the 2013 L’Eroica. Dave opted to ride a rental bike provided by the organizers. The pool of rental bikes was a bit of a lottery and poor Dave lost. The handlebars were bent and extremely narrow, the saddle was best described as an “ass hatchet,” a rather important cog on the the freewheel was shot, and it had no brakes. Its most charming trick, however, was that the front wheel would attempt to detach itself from the bike at inopportune moments. Instead of a quick release the bike came with big wingnuts on both the front and back wheels. The vibration from the road would cause the front wingnuts to back off. Brave Dave, however, was undeterred. A former motorcycle racer, he was an absolute demon on the descents. Dave had only one speed when the road pointed down – ludicrously fast. Mucho respect, both on and off the bike – a great guy.

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Me, A Cycling God (Outside of Siena)

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This is the other shop that we visited – the home of Tommasini bikes.

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This is the “Wall Of Tubes” in the heart of the Tommasini workshop. The woman in the blue shirt is Barbara Tommasini – she runs the show. We were basically given the run of the shop which, of course, was extraordinarly cool. Yes, I want a Tommasini bike.

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A stack of freshly-brazed Tommasini frames. I tried to stick one in my back pack, but it would not fit…

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Irio Tommasini, the founder. Mr. Tommasini has been working on bikes since 1948 – to say that he is a master frame-builder is an understatement. Best of all, he is a very nice guy. He was kind enough to take the time to look at pictures of my feeble attempts at frame-building (especially my Orange No. 2) and pronounced it “Bella! Bravo!” (And, yes, he did say it was “Merckx Orange.”)

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No. 1, In Its Natural Habitat.

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Number 988

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Chi ha capo di cera non vada al sole.

Ashley took this picture - I swiped it off of Facebook.

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The last morning in Tuscany, from my room.




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