On April 12, the same day John Degenkolb was sweeping to victory on the Paris-Roubaix cobbles, in the spirit of the European Classics, we were participating in the inaugural Eroica – California in Paso Robles, CA. This event is the latest iteration of the original L’Eroica which has taken place every year since 1997 on the “Strade Bianche” (white gravel roads) of Tuscany, Italy. The Italian event annually attracts more than 5,000 riders from all over the world. Although L’Eroica is intended to be in the spirit of cycling’s European classics early days and is restricted to road racing bikes of 1983 or earlier, its founder, Giancarlo Bracci, has stated; “Eroica, to me, is not a ride steeped in the past. It is about finding meaning in the present”.
The geography of the Paso Robles venue provided a perfect backdrop for this near clone of the original Gaiole, Italy event. Gaiole and Paso Robles are, in fact, now sister cities. With distances of 40, 65 and 125 miles which were about 40% off road, Eroica – California provided everyone with a challenge, especially with a vintage 5-speed freewheel. L’Eroica translates to “The Heroic” and at the end of our ride, we all got off the bike feeling more than a little “heroic.”
On an even more “heroic” vein, ARB’s own Barrett Brauer, recently participated in the Belgian Waffle Ride, a 140 mile “Hell of the North County” race with extensive off-road dirt & gravel sections. Barrett was a 9th place finisher in CAT 4 on his trusty titanium Guru. Bigger events have bigger rewards!
The popularity of mixed media roads like Eroica is leading to new events all over the world. There are more challenging events like the Belgian Waffle ride available. Even Iowa’s RAGBRAI is adding a 15 mile gravel section to its route this year. You might want to give one of these events a whirl. There’s a lot of adventure waiting for you, maybe just to the side of your usual route.
To get a taste of these events locally, join one of ARB’s Strade Marroni (Italian for “Brown Roads”) rides which take place on select days throughout the year during our Saturday morning shop ride series. The next one takes place on Saturday, May 23rd and you can learn all about it on our website. Of course, feel free to call the shop if you have any questions! Hope to see you out there.