Day 3 2018-10-07 Giaole in Chianti
L’Eroica Sunday- 209km & 16hrs cycling later, I am now a member of “The Heroic”. Last year, I rode the 138km, which was also a tough day and a preparation for the long ride.
I awoke in Siena at 2:30, drove the 30km to Gaiole at 4:00am and was surprised at the number of cars already parked. It was a great sight to see the lights and chattering of the wave of 5:00am first starters pass by as I unloaded my early 80’s Vitus bicycle.
Preparation in the dark took longer then expected. I dispensed with the backpack as used last year, and carried all my charging cables, passport, wallet, batteries and puncture repair gear in my overloaded jersey’s back pockets.
Compared to 6:25am last year, the 5:15am start was more relaxed. There was a course official checking the bicycle was compliant with the vintage bicycle regulation.
The card was time stamped with the first of eight checkpoints. It was cool and threatening rain again, so I put on my bright new Altura jacket and headed south, wondering what challenges, frustrations and memories the next dozen hours would create.
The climb to Brollio castle in the dark is a good warmup. The start of the first gravel section is lined with candles for hundreds of metres and almost mystical. It is a forgiving white road section compared to the mountains further south.
As the sun rose, we passed via Pianella, then skirted around Siena to the first food break in the tiny village of Radi (48.6km) at 8:20. This year I found the dirt climb into the village easier, compared to last year when I ran out of gears on my planetary internal hub gears (1953 Sturmey Archer FM 4 speed), and walked the last 100m with many others.
At Radi, I limited the time at the food stop and mainly consumed Nutella on toast, as it agreed with me. At Radi, I met the only Australians on the ride.
The 4th section of white road started after Radi, and we were welcomed on arrival (9:00am) at Murlo (56km) by the same priest as last year. He was again dressed in his full colourful Sunday robes.
It was a further 10km to the start of Long Ride loop at 66km. The cutoff time is 12:00, which was extended by 1 hr over 2017. Last year I gladly missed the cutoff by 6 mins.
After kilometers of steep dirt climbs, the next checkpoint was the mountain town of Montalcino (90km), at 11:06. The food break was again welcome. Again my vintage shoes were uncomfortable, but I managed better then last year by not riding for too long with tight toe clip straps.
The steep descent from Montalcino at 600m was very enjoyable, especially being on bitumen. In L’Eroica quite often the descents are on gravel, which is always under brakes.
The village of Torrenieri (100km) was almost half way and just after was the 8th gravel section of 12km, being one of the longer one.
At 13:54 I arrived at the checkpoint of Lucignano d’Asso with 112km cycled.
Arriving at Buonconvento at 13:58 after 125km was a welcome stop for food and checkpoint and being over half way, I felt I was “heading home”. I called Karen, who had just arrived in Rome via Abu Dhabi from Sydney. She was catching a train via Florence to meet me in Siena tonight. It was good to hear her voice and that she was on the last sector of a 30hr journey.
Unfortunately as I went to leave Buonconvento, I noticed my rear tire has gone flat. It was a delay as I changed it, pumped it up and bought a new spare tube from the mobile mechanic.
The 10th gravel section covering 16km was next, and the afternoon sun was draining the energy. Arriving into the lovely hamlet of Asciano (146km) st 15:50 gained another checkpoint stamp, and a food stop from the welcoming hosts.
The gravel climb and road to Monte St Marie (147km) st 16:55 was one of the toughest of the day. In 45min I covered 7km, and as someone pointed out there was still many hours to ride. From last year I remembered the descents were particularly tricky and I was using a lot of brakes. Some went faster and slower, and a few crashed on the rutted, loose surfaces.
The ride to the checkpoint at Castelnuovo Berardenga (165km) 17:48 was a bit of a blur. I was making progress but the sun would soon set. I was hoping my headlight would hold out as it was switching itself between bright and dull on the rough surface.
The ride via Pianella (177km) and to Vagliagli (190km) was done with the same group of Italian cyclists. At a few of the turns we stop to discuss if this was the correct directions and made a committee decision.
The climb to Radda checkpoint (200km) at 20:29 and the subsequent climbs are some of the highest of the event at 600m. It was now very dark, and only the occasional rider. Although the end was near it was still a test of mental and physical strength. My shoes were uncomfortable especially on long climbs.
After Radda with 5km showing to Gaiole, I took a wrong turn and added another 10km to the total. I arrived at the Gaiole in Chianti finish at 21:20, after 16hrs cycling.
I had my photo taken to a welcome applause, lifting my bicycle in the mandatory pose of a L’Eroica finisher. It was a feeling of relief and I enjoyed getting the finisher’s medal and special boxed wine.
After gathering some energy, I cycled back to the car, and drove slowly back to Siena to meet Karen. As happened last year, I missed dinner, but enjoyed the soothing shower and the welcome sleep.
The day satisfied the 10months of training. My bike and body had held up.