But, as it should be with Eroica, our focus is still our old steel bikes and the celebration of vintage cycling culture. The hardest of our three routes will remain our 135km jaunt up the very tough Ouberg Pass north towards Touwsrivier. Taking on this infamous and steep gravel road monster with the limited gearing of a vintage steel road bike is very hard work. Fortunately, when you reach the plateau you know the worst climb of the day is over, and you have a lovely food stop to look forward to just up the road. This 135km route is for the hard men and women of cycling, and if you ask me it is the true Eroica test. I would suggest everyone take on this challenge at least once. It is what Eroica was built for - pain, suffering, reward.
Last year a small group taking on the 135km got lost right near the beginning of the ride. They missed a crucial sharp right turn, and they ended up on an almost-unrideable track through some farms scattered up the escarpment. It was a 20km detour that took hours, but they refused to turn back. The tracks got narrower, fainter, and muddier. They persevered. Fortunately they somehow found their way onto Ouberg Pass and continued on course, but this mistake turned their day from a tough one into a truly epic and memorable adventure. The kind of experience that one would talk about for years. And it’s exactly this that Eroica aims to give each and every rider - real adventure in a world where it’s increasingly hard to come by.
If you don’t own a vintage bike (though you really should) the Eroica experience is now open to you as a race too with the new NOVA Eroica category. NOVA is Eroica’s forray into modern gravel racing, and this year’s race will be the second ever internationally. We’re hosting NOVA on the same day as the Classic vintage event, and since the 135km Classic and 155km NOVA routes are near identical, and set off only 30 minutes apart, vintage bikes and modern gravel bikes will square up ascending Ouberg Pass and beyond. It should make for an interesting day out. The NOVA race will follow an enduro style format, with four timed segments of about 40km in total. That means it’s not all out racing all the way, giving riders the opportunity to take in the landscape, make the most of the food stops, and share a bit of camaraderie on the road.
And if all this sounds like too much hard work, come and ride the 45km or 90km routes. The 45km is easy enough for any novice to complete, so even if you’re totally unprepared you’ll still make it. And besides - there is a very special brandy stop half way that should fortify you for the return journey. The 90km route includes a section into the beautiful Baden areas, where you can have a swim at the furthest point. Here you might run into the tail end of the NOVA race category - give them an Eroica salute if you do!