Photos and words by Kyle Kelley
l’Eroica Gaiole has always been a dream of mine. Since the early days of Tracko I would fantasize about traveling to Italy with only two things: a vintage Cinelli and a 35mm film camera. I hadn’t yet been outside of the United States and was young, dumb, and thought I could get anything done. Looking back, I probably would have forgotten to bring film. I was most definitely a bit naive back then.
Fast forward about 10 years, and Brooks England made my dreams a reality. Bragen, someone who I’ve been in contact with at Brooks for many many years asked me to come along for the ride. I was so excited but was scared more than anything. The language barrier constructed by traveling abroad just scares the shit out of me. If I can’t talk my way out of a sticky situation, order food, or ask for simple directions, I get extremely nervous. I was actually looking for ways out of the trip until my fiancé talked some sense into me and basically made me go. Had I not gone, I probably would’ve never forgiven myself and the FOMO would have been strong with two of my really good friends, Namz and Benedict in attendance. I probably would’ve had to unfollow both of them on Instagram. With Benedicts uncanny ability to show the grandness of a landscape, his love for red wine, Italian food, and pizza, he would have been public enemy number one. But Namz is just too hard to be mad at, ask Benedict, so I would’ve just unfollowed her. So I got myself packed and headed off to Italy.
I didn’t have any idea what to expect, I didn’t really do much research on Gaiole or even Italy in general. I was just relying on my love for Italian cycling heritage to pull me through this one and it did. Cycling has created a universal language over the years, that doesn’t need much translation no matter where you are from. I was shaking hands with some of the most famous collectors in all of the world. I was introduced to one of the most famous bike mechanics Italy has ever seen. I was photographing things to share with you all that I never even thought I’d see myself. And I was about to go on a bike ride with more history than every bike ride that I have ever ridden in my life. How crazy is that? I’ll go ahead and answer that for you, it was absolutely crazy!
I can’t even tell you with written words how awesome L’Eroica was. My writing cannot do this trip or even the event justice. These stories are best shared with a bottle of wine from one of the many wineries in Gaiole. You gotta see the love of this event in my eyes, and experience the utter excitement and gratitude I have for Italian cycling and food. I know this probably isn’t a possibility for many of you. But I promise…you ride bikes long enough, you’ll hear each and every one of these stories from me or someone else.