I set a 3:00 alarm to ensure I woke up with enough time to eat, dress and make the hour-long drive to Gaiole. It didn't matter... I was up at 2:00 and even had time to shower, pack up and depart early. I'm glad I did. It rained all night where I was staying. It rained hard on the drive over, which may be some of the most treacherous roads in all of Italy. Not one meter is straight, loads of blind curves and when you add in the rain and fog... I couldn't see anything. I won't say where I stayed, only because it is hidden, almost unknown (at least to my French navi-system!) and may be the most perfect place in all of Tuscany.
Anyhow... 5:00 start went as usual, and that is to say the atmosphere was ELECTRIC in the square in Gaiole.
As you can see, I'm awake, dry and full of energy and optimism! As is usual, that would soon change, as it started to rain fairly hard on the way to Siena. It didn't last long, but was enough to turn that long sleeve wool jersey into an anchor, and eventually would take the pig fat I rubbed on that saddle two years ago (yes, you read right) and make what looks like either an unfortunate gastro accident or an external black chamois on the backside of my pants! I guess the cycling pioneers didn't care as much about appearances and just went on with their business, as I did!
As for the ride, I did my usual spinning along the flats, pushing hard downhill enough to pass all those silly 80's bikes with gears, straining up the climbs as far as possible before dismounting and walking the rest of the way. All that means my average speed isn't at all anything to brag about but when you consider the number of single speed, 30 pound bikes that were to be found out of the 7000 entrants, you start to get the idea that I was a bit of a unicorn - at least as far as blond, fluent Americans on 100-year-old bikes goes. There are now l'Eroica's to be found all over the world and for me, this is still the greatest day you can have on a bike.
I rode a decent stretch with Cristian, who organizes a three-day vintage Milan-San Remo, which is now on my list of must-do's!
Ribollita at the Asciano ristoro, where we added a few unaccounted for km's. I also had a nice confrontation with a young gal in a car who really couldn't understand why all these cyclists had the nerve to slow down her day!
These gals are either saying how much of a hero I am on that old bike, or "Look at that black mark on his ass!" I'm guessing the latter. BTW, this is how you fix poorly-made replica pedals that have been smashed by standing on them so hard.
The sight of Cypress trees takes me back here...
Evidently, I fell asleep for ten minutes at Castelnuovo Berardenga again. This is where I absolutely die every time, only to rise up Lazarus-style and finish strong.
Oddly, the most exciting part about this l'Eroica for me was that in doing the 140, I had time to come back and negotiate the trade of the century. I just may be bringing this 1920's Maino home with me. I know, that means something to about 200 people in the world, so just go with me on this one!
So that's one more l'Eroica in the books. I can't thank enough my Italian family, Maria Theresa and Daniele (who shot all of these photos, BTW), for hosting me at their 13th century castle (yep, my wife has some amazing friends who have become yet another amazing Italian family for us!).
Monday, post-ride, I spent in Grosseto at the Tommasini factory/store and ended up having lunch at Irio's house. I'm saving that for another day though, as it was yet another fantastic day for me in Italy.