With the gravel roads of Tuscany set to host the 11th edition of the modern pro Spring Classic this coming weekend, the folks who set the ball in motion 10 years earlier with their granfondo on the gravel around Sienna are back for 2017 adding a new format. The amateur race has always been about taking on the white gravel roads on vintage bikes – its name L’Eroica Strade Bianche essentially translates as the Heroic race of the white roads, and the Eroica culture has since spread to a total of nine retro events around the world where amateurs break out their wool jerseys and downtube shifters. But gravel riding has exploded in the 20 years since their first event, so 2017 was the year to let modern bikes have a bit of fun too. Don’t worry retro-grouches the classic original will stay vintage-only, with no bike tech allowed post-1987.
This year’s first Nova Eroica will open up the route of the classic to modern bikes too…
The last weekend of April will see riders on modern bikes tackle some timed sectors on the white gravel roads, but the aim of the competition will focus a bit more on team tactics and fun than just an all-out modern gravel hammerfest. In between the timed segments, riders will regroup with pacing set by a group of ex-pros that the organizers are entrusting with the amateur peloton. While the bikes won’t all be steel, and the kit not all wool, the intent it to still have everyone enjoy the scenery and have a chance to stop along the way to enjoy some local food & wine.
There are a bunch of riding options for cyclists of just about any level to enjoy. From the same family & kid friendly 27km loop and non-competitive shortened 73km route that even modern bikes can ride in the fall, to the proper 89, 150 & 206km routes for the serious gravel riders, it’s pretty much a pick what you think you can handle kind of thing. Registration is already open over at NovaEroica.com for the event on April 30, you even can get a pretty sweet deal if you combine the Nova Eroica with the classic.
For those who want to stick with the classics, the original L’Eroica on retro bikes is still going down in the spring. Starting in Gaiole in Chianti, Tuscany on the 1st of October this one is still for the heroes. The same routes apply, just this time you don’t get the luxury of light carbon bikes, integrated shifting, and for the love of the Madonna del Ghisallo no disc brakes.
But the retro-fondo season kicks off even earlier this year, with the first event taking place in South Africa on March 18. The series then goes to and goes on to California, back to Italy, then Japan, Spain, Britain, Holland, Italy (again) and of course finishing the 2017 calendar off with the original ride in October.