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 Post subject: Solo Eroica Effort
PostPosted: Wed Jul 25, 2012 12:01 am 
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Joined: Tue Dec 21, 2010 6:31 pm
Posts: 1111
Hello,

Since I have the chance, I decided to have a crack at the Eroica parcours on Monday. The weather forecast said it was going to be around 25c on Monday, then storms later. Since the Mrs is arriving on Wednesday, I decided it was now or never. The story is first, if you can't be bothered reading it, I've put some comments on doing the course solo at the end, and a link to a few pictures.

Got up at 5:00 to get the first train to Siena (the Mrs was more impressed at this than any of the other stuff). The course links up with Siena, which is easier to reach than the official start up North. I had to wait around for a bike shop to open to pick up a spare tubular, and set off about 9:00.

The first sign this was going to be an ill fated affair was when the shifter for my rear derailleur broke off about 5km into the route. Since this was a bit of an all or nothing affair, I decided to crack on regardless. I worked out how to shift by unscrewing the shifter bolt, moving the stump of the shifter, then quickly doing up the bolt again.

Next bit of sh1te luck was when my back tube started going flat about 30km in. I stopped to fix it, and found the spare which I had put in a bag under my saddle had fallen off. Bloody velcro! Didn't feel like going back over the previous 30km trying to find the lost tube (it certainly wasn't anywhere near where I stopped), so I pumped up the tube and set off for Montalcino, 'only' about 15km further on. Unfortunately, that 15km included about 10 km of climbing with sections of up to 15%. And suicidal wildlife. And Germans in huge BMW SUVs with evil fat blonde kids who stared at me like I was a circus freak as they cut me up. And some Berkshire Hunt who decided to use a tractor spray water over the road to stop the dust blowing over his golf course. Just as I was cycling past him. The wetness made the gravel stick to my tyres like barnacles to the bottom of a trawler.

In any case, I made it to Montalcino. Montalcino might be a nice town, but it has NO useful bike shop. I actually searched the ever reliable internet before I left, and there is a bike shop listed, but it turned out to be a decidedly dodgy place renting out crap mountain bikes to the more adventurous podgy Americans infesting the town. The best bit of Montalcino was the two urchins who followed me around and shouted 'buona fortuna' as I left. Thanks, urchins.

With my tyre still leaking, I had to cut out a 35km loop of the course and headed to the next town, called Buonconvento. Luckily, they have a decent bike shop there that had tubulars in stock, so a bit of glue sniffing later and I was back on the road properly.

The next section was the part that includes the Monte Sante Maria, one of the toughest clims. This area is just incredible. It is like riding round in a Van Gogh painting. Desolate, dusty, awe-inspiring. This was the bit that made me glad I tried doing the route solo The loneliness added something to it.

The climbs are not to be underestimated. Lots of signs saying 15%, probably more in some sections. It was also very windy, and I got blasted sideways at a couple of points.

I pushed on to a town called Pianalle (or something), but at this point it was starting to get dark, and I had to be back in Siena for a train at 21:30, so very reluctantly I had to cut the course short. I think I managed about 150km or so. I don't know if I could have done the whole thing in a day, I lost some time due to the mechanical problems, but the enforced rest helped. I know there is a lot of hype talked about these sorts of challenges, but this is without a doubt the hardest thing I've done cycling wise, not to be underestimated. I hope I can go back and do it properly one day soon.

Most amusing moment was when I passed a lone hiker walking the opposite way to me, about 100km in. I waved and croaked 'ciao' at her, and she looked at me and said in a Scottish accent, 'Jesus mate, are you alright?'

Here are some random thoughts about doing the course solo:

1) The roads are public highways, not bridleways, so you come across traffic.

2) The signposting is excellent, really easy to find your way around.

3) Most of the towns listed on the route are tiny, you will be lucky to find a pump with fresh water, let alone food, and don't dream of a bike shop in most of them. The big towns I went through on the route are Siena, Montalcino (where you can buy overpriced chianti and not much else), buonconvento, which has an ok bike shop and a supermarke, and castelnuovo de berardenga. So if you are solo, take supplies with you.

4) I was lucky with the weather, it was about 25c, which was manageable, despite the wind.

5) I was stuck with the trains that there were, earliest I could get to Siena was about 8:00. I would start earlier if you can, as soon as it gets light round 6:00. You will need all the light you can get if you want to do the whole course in a day.

6) I rode a 42-28, which I needed on the tougher climbs. I used 23 tubes, which were comfortable enough, but obviously a bit of a problem if you get a flat. Cyclocross tyres would probably be best :)

In any case, this was an amazing experience, just wished I had done the whole thing. I actually wish I was out there right now...

Link to a few photos:
http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set= ... 7513290e8b


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Jul 25, 2012 8:18 am 
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Joined: Wed Jul 27, 2011 12:46 pm
Posts: 962
Location: Montpellier, France
That's a fantastic story - buona fortuna indeed. They always say "if you want to have an adventure - break down".

I once had Italian kids running after me shouting "Eeengleesh! I do like my tea!" as I cycled up the road leading up to the top of Vesuvius. Italy is a great place for cycling and your story really makes me want to try the strada bianchi. Not necessarily when the tracks are being sprayed with water though. :shock:


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Jul 25, 2012 9:13 am 
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Joined: Mon Mar 26, 2012 5:21 pm
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Epic tale: thanks for sharing.

L'Eroica is on my "things to do before I die"...


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Jul 25, 2012 1:01 pm 
Old School Hero

Joined: Fri May 18, 2012 11:24 am
Posts: 194
Location: London SW
The Eroica is very tough, generally people don't believe me when I say that, but really it is harder than the Marmotte and the Maratona dle Dolomites, even if done on a modern bike.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Jul 25, 2012 1:23 pm 
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Joined: Tue Dec 21, 2010 6:31 pm
Posts: 1111
Rich34 wrote:
"Eeengleesh! I do like my tea!"


Hahaha...I love this!

Yep, it is tough. I think the right attitude is to just go out and have a bash at it,
even if you don't get terribly far, it is really a unique thing, you see scenery and get an atmosphere that you don't get from cycling on normal roads.
Sometimes it feels like going back in time, like when I saw one of those three wheel Piaggio trucks struggling up the road in front of me.

Cheers for the replies.

Johnny


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Jul 25, 2012 1:48 pm 
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Joined: Tue Dec 21, 2010 6:31 pm
Posts: 1111
PS, here are some more tips on the experience of riding the roads, I was asked to share some thoughts so here goes.
Feel free to correct things I may've got wrong.

1) Like with riding pave, it usually helps to follow the trails of cars or other vehicles, the dust and gravel is more compacted there. Often you can see that the surface is yellowish where the cars have been, so try to follow that line (don't eat the yellow snow?). Stay well away from the sides of the roads near the verges, the surface is really treacherous on a road bike, sand and gravel all over.
If traffic is coming, you either have to stand your ground and stick to the good lines, or stop and let it pass.

2) The above gets more difficult when the road has been used by tractors, the tyres leave a bumpy tread pattern that dries hard and is just like riding over pave - or even worse if the tread marks are really bad! Keep a fairly loose grip on your bars to absorb the shocks and avoid blisters.

3) Also like Pave, you have to stay in the saddle when you do the tougher climbs, so get used to that in your training or practice.

4) Some of the descents are especially scary. There is a section going towards Asciano where the road is really gravelly, and I was glad I had done a bit of cyclocross because I needed to countersteer a lot just to stay upright. Really challenging on a road bike.

5) If you want to get an idea of all this, maybe take your bike on some bridleways, it will give you some experience, but not of riding 50-60km of the stuff in one go. Of course, there's also the Ronde and Paris Roubaix to practice on too.

6) Watch out for the wind. I got blown sideways a couple of times, which is tough when you are on the only solid, non slippery part of the road and get blasted into a patch of gravel and sand.

7) I would also say take your time and enjoy it, take breaks if something interests you there is so much to this course, scenery, nature, history, food, atmosphere. Much better to enjoy that while you are there.

Overall, this course challenges all your different cycling skills, stamina, climbing, technical skill (and mechanical skill!) which like Ugo Santiago said makes it tough and easy to underestimate, but which also makes it so distinctive.

Hope that's helpful.

Johnny


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Aug 18, 2012 7:44 am 
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Joined: Fri Sep 05, 2008 10:34 pm
Posts: 1513
Great post....thanks!
I will be attempting the 205 this year and although I know that it will be the toughest thing I've done so far in my 42 years, I WILL complete it.

I'm still deciding on tyre choice for the hetchins, but will be using some Dr Sludge tubes to help with the avoidance of p*******s.......!

I want to use my carradice saddlebag, but I don't think that it's in keeping......a musette might annoy the hell out of me though.

Still experimenting. Anyone else from here going?


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Aug 18, 2012 9:53 am 
Concours Judge
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Location: a proper EU country
I am going :D


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Aug 18, 2012 1:32 pm 
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Just 2 from here?


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Aug 18, 2012 1:59 pm 
Concours Judge
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Joined: Wed Jul 06, 2005 3:59 pm
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Location: a proper EU country
No, more Retrobikers are going:

me
EdEdwards
Hilts
pullingteeth
...


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