L'Eroica - rediscover the beauty of fatigue and the thrill of the conquest” - By Charles Morris
If you, like me, have been unwilling to give up your first cromoly steel frame bike (or bikes – always adopt the formula N+1!) because you had enjoyed too many hours/kms/experiences together and you keep thinking you might just, perhaps one day, ride it again, the opportunity to do so is here. You’ll be able finally to answer your better half’s complaints about that old unused bike cluttering up the place and to ignore the gardener’s requests to give it up. Take it out of the dark recesses of the garage, have it serviced – even restored if necessary (Hunter Cycling in Melville or Woodstock Cycleworks in Cape Town will oblige) – replace those new-fangled clipless pedals with toeclips and get ready to do an Eroica ride!
Started in Italy 1997 by Giancarlo Brocci, who so admired the values of past cycling that he wanted to reconnect others to cycling’s heritage, L’Eroica now hosts events all around the world, the second annual South African edition of which took place two weekends ago in the beautiful Western Cape town and gravel road surrounds of Montagu – see https://eroicasouthafrica.com. I took myself there with my first bike, a Centurion Expert, and enjoyed a very special, challenging cycling experience that in the photos below I’m pleased to share.
Three largely gravel road routes were on offer on the day, the 140 km ‘Kiesie’ route over the ‘gruesome Ouberg pass’, a 90 km ‘Kogman’ ride or the 50 km ‘Kingna’ loop. I did the ‘Kogman’, the description of ‘Kiesie’ proving too intimidating for me. Once I got my gravel road cycling balance back (surprisingly quickly considering that I hadn’t ridden a road bike on gravel since schooldays some decades ago), riding in that environment in the company of classic bikes and like-minded folks was sublime. A tough climb and portaging up to and down the other side of the Pietersfontein dam wall just added to the interest and difficulty of the ride. The event was well organised with excellent route marking (although some on the ‘Kiesie’ ride did lose their way out there, but got home safely and none the worse for the experience) and refreshment stations with a difference! The first stop at the Kingna Distillery offered breakfast rolls, handfuls of cashew nuts and excellent potstill brandy to taste, and the second at the dam had boerie rolls, cashews again and a fine muscadel!
An extract from L’Eroica’s website describes the ethos of the events as ‘…cycling that can spread respect and create bonds between loyal opponents. It is cycling in a healthy way, and its participants are inspiring and beautiful to watch’. Giancarlo Brocci says “We want people to rediscover the beauty of fatigue and the thrill of the conquest.” Have a look at the website and particularly the video at https://eroica.cc/ethos to learn more.
The next Eroica South Africa ride will be held only this time next year, but I have already blocked the date in my diary. The event is held one week after the Cape Town Cycle Tour for the convenience of international visitors to tackle both. So, if you do take out your dusty Colnago/Bianchi/Le Turbo/Hansom and enter and should the Cape of Storms or storming Capetonians conspire to kibosh a second attempt at the running of the 40th CTCT, your trip to the Cape, as mine this year, will not be entirely in vain. And if the classic bike riding bug bites you could also consider trying to get an entry to the Tour of Ara (http://www.tourofara.co.za) although this is not for the faint of heart! I was tempted, but this year’s event, thankfully, is already fully booked.
A Colnago on display at the exhibition of classic bikes. In the early days of Club 100 quite a few of these were around, to the extent that the Club was sometimes referred to as Club Colnago. Check in your or your parent’s garage!
Pre-ride briefing – helmets not obligatory!
A classic Bianchi ready for the ridewith matching colour pump!
The start/finish line - confirmation of numbers by a show of hands…
Neutral zone procession
Farm road riding – no traffic lights/cars/taxis/potholes/glass, just stones!!
First refreshment station, Kingna Distillery – excellent potstill brandy tasting on offer!
True gentlemen – rider and bike! Note the Sturmey-Archer hub gears and brakes.
The long and winding road to a tough climb in the distance
Top of the climb
Trail riding with a difference around the Pietersfontein
Portage down the face of the dam wall
Second refreshment stop – muscadel on offer!
Italian Eroica tourist purists with another classic Calnago
Dinner that evening and…
…the venue of a coffee ride the next morning - The Barn on Route 62
In my first club cycling top designed 28 years ago by Sue Salver, a former Club 100 member – amazed I still fit into it!