The Beauty of Fatigue and the Thrill of Conquest
Sweat, grit and heart. These are what typify the immutable spirit of Eroica, or “heroic” cycling. Now in its fourth year, the Eroica California competitive race will return to Paso Robles on April 14 and 15 at the Paso Robles Event Center.
From all over the world, tough and talented cyclists will converge to soak up California’s beautiful Central Coast, a coveted geographical gem that mimics the Mediterranean countryside of Italy and Spain. A fantastic pre-ride dinner by Michelin Star Chef Vincenzo Guarino, premium local wines and beer, live music, and an exciting auction to benefit Hospice of San Luis Obispo are all part of the fun, highlighted by a presentation of the 2018 Best of Show following the Vintage Bicycle Concours d’Elegance.
History of the ‘heroic’
Two decades ago, founder Giancarlo Brocci initiated L’Eroica del Gaiole in Chianti, Italy.
His intention was to revitalize the sport of “heroic cycling” so that both seasoned and younger generations could gather and experience the “beauty of fatigue and the thrill of conquest.” Speaking in his native Italian, he contends that classic cycling “is absolutely capable of attracting young athletes and of becoming a reference and a discipline for life.”
The original Italian L’Eroica began with participants riding any kind of bicycle before being fined-tuned to vintage bikes. Historical cycling, Brocci believes, is the pure form of racing. Ironically, in a modern world of seeking out the lightest bikes, he believes that it is the heavier, older versions that help riders develop more strength for the most brutal courses. In a world of competitive sports marred by doping, founder Brocci believes cyclers should likewise forego energy bars and drinks and rely on natural foods.
In 2014, Eroica California founder Wes Hatakeyama met with Brocci in Italy to create the U.S. version of L’Eroica and debuted the first race in Paso Robles. The event was successful, and word spread throughout Europe that the Central Coast had a new and legitimate race for which to train, invest, and participate.
“Our coastal and long rides are very hard to do, even on the modern bikes. So, you can imagine how hard they are to do with older, heavier bikes,” said Hatakeyama. Spring rains only amps up the challenge.
An athletic melting pot
Last year, 900 cyclists traveled to Paso Robles from around the world to ride in Eroica California, where observers cheered them on.
“It is the most international event Paso Robles has ever had,” said Hatakeyama. “People from 35 different countries arrived. This year, we anticipate over 1,000 riders.”
Paso Robles Event Center will serve as Eroica’s headquarters. At the fairgrounds, riders can camp out in the open or in RVs as they sleep, eat and prepare for their extended weekend. By nature, cyclists are a tight-knit community. In Paso Robles, riders converse, break bread together, and cultivate friendships that thrive beyond the physical limitations of international borders.
“Paso Robles is my hometown. That’s why I’m very proud to bring Eroica here,” said Hatakeyama. “Last year, the riders enjoyed the restaurants, like Il Cortile, Odyssey World Café, and Artisan. One said they got to hear five different languages at their tables. They felt like they were in Europe! Like last year, riders will stay from Thursday through Sunday, our main event day, and leave on Monday.”
In Paso Robles, the Eroica California connection has become so integral, the City has an opportunity to cultivate two more sister city relationships in Europe: Gaiole in Chianti, Italy, and Cenicero, located in the province of Rioja, Spain.
NOVA Eroica and routes from Paso to the coast
New this year, an added NOVA Eroica format will welcome all road racing, cyclocross, and gravel bicycles outfitted with drop handlebars and carbon, steel, titanium or aluminum frames to experience the Eroica spirit. Riders will follow the Coastal Route. (See the Eroica California website for details plus the optional NOVA
Eroica Strava Club app to track/time ride segments and compete with fellow riders.)
Four routes make up Eroica California competition, on both paved and unpaved roads, with rest stops at local points of interest. Non-riders may also view street-by-street locations by visiting the website.
The Short Route is 40 miles with a 2,233-foot ascent, ideal for athletes of all levels. Riders tour through East Paso and Templeton on undulating terrain, gravel and scenic vineyard roads of the Salinas River Valley with rest stops at Cass Winery and Olea Farm.
The Medium Route is 70 miles with a 5,200-foot ascent that mimics the Short Route, then climbs Kiler Canyon (affectionately nicknamed, “Killer” Canyon). Here, riders encounter steep, 17% grades along a narrow, gravel road through a wooded canyon. An added rest stop at Halter Ranch Winery offers a well-earned respite at mile 55.
The Coastal Route is 87 miles, ascends 7,019 feet, heads straight to Kiler Canyon, through West Paso, and rests at Linn’s Fruit Bin, Cayucos Pier, and 15C in Templeton before returning home.
The Heroic Route is the stuff of true Eroica and not for the squeamish. This grueling 128.2-miler ascends 9,649 feet, follows the Medium Route through Kiler Canyon, to Halter Ranch Winery, then toward the Pacific Ocean. Think lots of gravel with breathtaking views! Mercifully, the remaining four rest stops mimic the Coastal Route.
For complete details, event scheduling, registration (plus military and student discounts),
vendor and volunteer opportunities, visit eroicacalifornia.com.