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Italy’s Strade Bianche professional race has, in relatively short order, become one of the most anticipated races in the early spring calendar. Through the beautiful Tuscan countryside and over waves of famed white gravel roads, the race is cycling’s true instant classic. Race founder Giancarlo Brocci is also the creator and driving force behind the beloved l’Eroica amateur events.
Interview: Chris Henry // Photos: John Watson/The Radavist
Inspired by Italian cycling history, the beauty of suffering, and an altruistic effort to protect Italy’s gravel roads, l’Eroica continues to attract old and new riders with a carefully executed international expansion.
This year, Eroica California marks the first incursion in the United States with events on April 11 and 12 in San Luis Obispo County. With Paso Robles marked as l’Eroica’s home base, participants may choose from 41, 65, and 123 mile routes.
peloton caught up with Brocci to hear more about the charm of l’Eroica and its journey beyond Italy’s gravel roads.
L’Eroica was born in Italy but is steadily expanding. How does each new location relate to the original experiment?
The locations are chosen based on the similarities of the landscape to that of Tuscany. They are also based on the possibility to offer an exciting and challenging route which must comprise segments of gravel roads. The other elements of the original L’Eroica are the vintage bikes and clothing, as well as the fact that it is not a competitive event. Nevertheless it is an individual competition with oneself to complete the route.
Every country has its own history in cycling. Will l’Eroica always be, at its heart, an Italian event?
Hopefully not, we are trying to internationalize the event in order to make it relevant globally. Nevertheless Italian cycling is a huge chunk of the history of cycling, therefore Italy will remain central.
What brings l’Eroica to California?
The landscape, the culture of cycling, and the fact we have met people who understand the event.
How do you balance the philosophical approach to bicycle equipment of a certain era against arbitrary rules for what is allowed and what is prohibited? Do you have any concerns about being too strict with the equipment rules?
We are strict in writing and a bit more flexible in reality. We also accept vintage looking bikes of modern construction.
The professional race on the strade bianche has quickly become an important spring classic. How do you see this growing and to what extent does it support l’Eroica amateur events?
We see it growing a lot, because pros have fun riding l’Eroica Pro Strade Bianche. The pro ride helps us grow awareness of the brand and of the spirit that led me to invent the amateur event. In fact, it is the only case in which a pro race has originated from an amateur ride!
How does a nostalgic event such as l’Eroica appeal to those who are new to cycling and who may only know modern equipment?
It took time. At the beginning L’Eroica was mainly ridden by older people. Young cyclists started coming to enjoy the landscape and relaxed atmosphere of the ride.
Where will we see l’Eroica travel after California?
We are working on South Africa for February 2016, but we also have a long list of requests from other European countries including Germany, the Netherlands, Hungary, Denmark, Belgium, France, Greece, and even Bulgaria! We definitely have to make some choices.
Find all of the event info at eroicacalifornia.com.
peloton is the official media partner of L’Eroica California