Special arrangements were made for us to start with former pros, legends and iconic Luciano Berti donning the No. 1 tag. Imagine, we were within touching distance of Erik Zabel, Francesco Moser, Felice Gimondi. We had to pinch ourselves..
Everywhere you looked, there was endless sea of colourful wool jerseys. It felt like we were in a movie set. Gaiole was entirely thrown back to pre-1987, with many support staff dressed in retro theme as well.
The weather report didn't help preparations as we scrambled to buy waterproof jackets as rain was forecast. It must have been beginners luck, as the sun came out with gusto!
Our group were divided in which distances to ride as we were well aware that the fine scenery can very quickly turn into an uphill climb, lasting hours. Our aim was to do the 75 km, with an option of bailing out at the split point, and settle for 38km, if it got too tough.
Prior to hitting the intersection (25km mark), the only tough climb was at the gates of Brolio. I got off the bike and pushed as I still had Singaporean gear ratios, 42/23. Felt good and carried on for the 75 km route, I knew my mates would do too.
Good feelings while riding in Tuscany usually don't last very long. At the 40km mark, I could feel my soul leaving my body, slowly.. The first stop would come 2km ahead, I was glad to see familiar faces again.
The second stop was only 12 km away. Category 4 Strada Bianca caused some of my memory lapse. I get it now, if L'Eroica lets you stop for food, hell awaits you in the climbs ahead. I did have fun bombing down the white stuff at 60km/hr, which resulted in one broken spoke. I'd thought to myself, I am badass, I will carry on.. By this time badass became synonymous with dumbass as my rear wheel was 1 inch off center. About 25km to go, how hard can it be? I am almost at the finish I thought.
The last leg brought us to the most beautiful parts of the route as we ascended another 600m. I can't remember how many times I pushed the bike but it was plenty. Eyes were crossed and legs were cramping up at the 60km mark. It started to drizzle but seeing the rainbow gave us some reprieve.
As we came closer to the finish with every revolution of our crank, we could feel the crowds' encouragement as they clapped and cheered for us. The band was even playing when we reached the finish line. We were all smiles, regardless of what distance we did. It was indeed a hard day but a great life experience.
Special thanks to the Eroica management. Claudio, Giancarlo, and their team really made our dreams come true.
This memory will last forever..Ciao!