The beauty of fatigue and the thrill of conquest
   Edition 2024

Eroica is a captivating voyage into the past. A journey on pedals, with vintage bicycles.

These old relics, saved from rust and brought back to life from the depths of cellars, defy gravity with every bump in the road. The chains dangle freely, the brakes cry out for mercy with every stop, and the gear shifter refuses to stay in place. The wool jerseys may itch against the skin as you ride under the banners of Carrozzeria Zonca or Polisportiva Pennese, Gis Gelati, Inoxpran, Scic, and Lambrusco Giacobazzi. It's a journey through Italy that embodies what it should be: charming villages that foreigners envy, scenes free from concrete, and the obsession to mimic America with uniform suburbs and a maze of viaducts and shopping centers.

Eroica is more than just a race; it's an exploration of the stories that surround it. If you take the time to engage with your fellow riders, you'll discover a treasure trove of narratives. Each Eroico, be they one of the thousands who gather on the first Sunday of October in Gaiole or one of the numerous heroic events worldwide, has a unique story to share. They are stories waiting to be told.

Among these stories, there's one about a spry German cyclist. On a white road leading up to Castello di Brolio, he passed by with his sharp calves, wearing a T-Raleigh jersey and riding an original bike from the same team. With Columbus tubes and Campagnolo Super Record components, it was a two-wheeled Ferrari from that era. I attempted to keep up with him for a couple of hairpin turns but to no avail. He left me to struggle with my gears. The elderly German cyclist pedaled gracefully, showing he still had the pedal stroke despite the years. After passing the castle and descending after a bit of a run-up, I caught up with him. I complimented his fitness and the magnificent bike. With a disarming smile, Klaus-Peter Thaler, from Cologne, a former teacher, but more importantly, a former professional cyclist from the heroic years of cycling, casually told me that he had competed in the Tour de France five times from 1976 to 1981. In 1978, he even won the third stage from Saint-Amand-les Eaux to Saint-Germain-en-Laye with the same bike: 244 km of flat terrain in rainy conditions, won in a sprint finish ahead of a small group of escapees. Thanks to a crash that penalized the main group a few kilometers from the finish line, he unexpectedly claimed the yellow jersey, which he held for a couple of days as a neo-pro until the time trial. As he recounted this story, one he must have shared with himself and others a thousand times, his eyes lit up. A photograph. Joy imprinted in the soul resurfaces.

Another remarkable story involves a solo ride under the scorching sun towards Asciano. I found myself cycling alongside a lady in her sixties: Anna proudly showed me her blue wool jersey adorned with the tricolor emblem of U.C. Baracca Lugo. It was the Romagna region at its finest, complete with tagliatelle and lambrusco, all the way from Lugo di Romagna. Anna is the granddaughter of Francesco Baracca, the Italian aviation hero of World War I. Legend has it that he chose the prancing horse emblem to decorate his airplane, the same prancing horse that, after his death in combat, Anna's great-grandmother gave to Enzo Ferrari in the 1920s when he was just beginning his racing career. "It will bring you good luck. It will revive my son's glory over time," her mother said. This black prancing horse on a yellow background is Modena's color and signifies Ferrari, one of the world's most recognizable brands. While we continued pedaling, Anna shared this story. She also spoke about her passion for cycling, which she discovered later in life and became a symbol of her rediscovered zest for life. She had been cycling for two years, already a grandmother with three grandchildren. Some time earlier, she had battled a serious illness. And since then, something had clicked. "My daughter thinks I'm crazy at my age, but I can't see myself as the grandmother who knits socks." So, Anna has become a rock 'n' roll grandmother. Just as her grandfather challenged fate by flying paper planes, she rose from her setbacks and resumed living life to the fullest, defying her years, straddling an old racing bike.

Riccardo Barlaam

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