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L’Eroica by Alberta Schiatti

Also this year I did the Eroica. Of all my few times, this has been the best. Perfect I would say.

A beautiful sunrise, he kept his promise and the day was at its height. The Tuscan hills were dyed with colours so vivid and full that it seemed to be in a sixties photo made with Ferrania film. The ground was also good, little dust and above all no mud. I did the 81 km route (if you are thinking “just?”, Don't do it) and I enjoyed every meter, even the ones I pushed (yes, I pushed).Even those in which I was afraid.I challenged the fearsome Volpaia, and I won. I ate too much, drank even more.I met old friends and met wonderful people. I even tried, with the help of Chianti, to speak Polish, or maybe it was Russian, who knows. For those who still don't know (but where do you live?) L'Eroica is a non-competitive event that takes place on vintage bicycles, with non-technical clothing, on that ring of mainly dirt roads that is located in the heart of Tuscany more beautiful.

This definition, which is as long as the paracetamol leaflet, is actually reductive and does not do justice to what, without exaggerating and even without the endorfining effect of fatigue and Chianti (I swear by it), can be defined as the cycling event most beautiful and evocative in the world.In fact, it says nothing of the magic that envelops it from the day before, when Gaiole fills up with noisy and colorful stalls, with irresistible aromas of every food and dish, with music and joy until the following evening, when, in the dark as when the most heroic have left, the most heroic cross the finish line, those who have done it all, exhausted with fatigue but happy and excited like children.

It doesn't mention the thousands of cyclists from all over the world who arrived here dressed like a hundred years ago, each in their own way, each at their best. All different, some bizarre, others more classic; many team uniforms. Probably the most perfectionists have devoted themselves to the look for months, judging by the favorites, the sculpted beards, the handlebar mustaches. A definition cannot, by definition, describe the joy and excitement that depart from the main street of Gaiole and pervade the surrounding area like a wave.Pure happiness, a little childish.And what does this definition say about theHeroic refreshments, which are Christmas lunches, wedding parties on the lawn, gargantuan picnicsrather than refreshments? And what about Cecchini's lard?That at the thirty-fifth crostino washed down with Chianti I wondered what anti-doping thought about it.Or the ribollita? How do you describe that blue light that at daybreak seems to caress the hills, and then slowly turns into gold, or the climb to Brolio illuminated only by torchlight?And where is solidarity, which is palpable, like fatigue, found in this sentence?That warm sensation that adheres to your chest like sweaty boiled wool, and that makes you feel the true sense of belonging because on those hard white roads we are all together.

And then, if what it says is true, that it is not competitive, then how is it that each participant ultimately wins?The heroic who does thewhole ring, of 209 kilometers and almost 4,000 meters in altitude,wins.But the winner is also the one who for the first time does “only” 46 kilometers.Whoever can't make it and walks wins, and also whoever falls and smashes everything but then gets up again.The winner is the one who did not believe they could do it and instead… Who makes a little bit more of it than he thought.Pride is won, self-confidence, challenge.

Nothing to do the Eroica is not closed to us in a definition.But not even a river of words would be able to convey its true essence.To really understand what L'Eroica is, you have to be there, do it, pedal it, sweat it, fall, eat it, drink it, live it in short.And when itactually ends, it never really ends.It remains there, silent, nestles in the muscles, behind the eyes or in the nose, and comes back out when you least expect it.A pain, the color of the sky, a perfume, a speck of dust in our hair, which who knows how it remained.And suddenly, you feel your heart beating faster.So you understand that the Eroica is now within you, and you have no more escape.And that you will have to go back every year.


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