SPORTING GRP3 (SG3) was created as an antidote to the Instagram #hashtag zeitgeist. It exists to be part of, and create, experiences that represent what CHPT3 is about – not over-composed imagery or the repeated selfie in quixotic search for the picture that will pose your life perfectly on a screen while ruining the actual moment you were living. SG3 is about going and doing stuff and sharing those experiences with real-actual-present-people.
So, it was ironic, yet kinda perfect, that the first ever SG3 trip didn’t even involve me, it was Brooks that organised it, they wanted to take the SG3 to Nova Eroica as it seemed the perfect mix of new and old. Which is really what CHPT3 is about.
Two things which sealed the SG3 reputation on this first trip:
1. We didn’t get one good picture of Cal in CHPT3. Below you'll find Ryder and Cal pulling off a perfect mix of bad selfie with shitty composition: pure SG3.
2. I had to commentate on the Tour de Yorkshire with Ned while the guys were representing, so didn’t even get to enjoy this third chapter of my life.
Other than that, it was a massive success. The imagery we do have is included, and thankfully one of the Group has taken it upon themselves to write it up, so here you go, over to Steve Smith (Castelli boss and founding SG3 member).
Pre race jitters
It’s the first SPORTING GRP3 event and the Nova Eroica is the perfect setting. Yes, it’s arguably a bike race. But not that serious. And having a good time seems more important than getting a result. I had no idea how true that would turn out to be.
The hard riding would have to wait till tomorrow. First there’s a quick stroll through the expo area made up primarily of the Eroica classic bike vendors selling every possible Campagnolo Record crank and Delta brake you can imagine. And an odd mix of genuine vintage clothing mixed with rather lousy modern replica. I was shocked to find an original Bianchi Campagnolo jersey from Fausto Coppi’s era. Back before the first CHPT3 kit, back before there was a Scorpion or the name Castelli, it was called Vittore Gianni and was made in a tailor shop in the chic Brera area of Milano, making kit for all the top teams of the day. You couldn’t race without it.
It must have been pretty apparent how badly I wanted that jersey because my negotiation skills let me down and I paid way too much but quickly forgot about that as I rumbled in to the handmade bike area where Dario Pegoretti, Sacha White and Darren Crisp were all showing off their latest. Hopefully that will expand in the future.
About this time Rafael de Medina rolls up rocking his climbing ivy green shorts along with a perfectly fitted ashley blue jersey with a outer space body warmer over the top. But first we had to compare his lavender Open U.P. to my chocolate coloured version. Ryder Hesjedal and Richard Pearce join up and SPORTING GRP3 Nova Eroica ’17 group is nearly complete.
SG3 of course needs to combine culture with speed so Wesley Hatakeyama (Eroica legend and organiser of the Eroica California) kindly organised a visit to the Ciacci Piccolomini vineyards, famous for their Brunello Riserva. The highlight is when Ryder starts telling stories from his 2012 Giro victory including the behind the scenes dealings that will never make it into the pages of Rouleur. But it’s also Ryder’s fault, being the famous former Giro winner, that we end up having to go to the tediously long race organiser’s dinner instead of a more natural SG3 evening. I think Richard still managed to stay out till 4 a.m. but he’s not really talking about what went down after the rest of us headed to bed.
When a race is not a race
The problem with having your hotel practically on the start line is that there’s no hurry to get going in the morning. But time is getting short and we’re starting to worry. Anyone seen Cal? Finally he rolls in moments before we need to be heading out the door to get cut past everyone to get to the start of the starting grid. The rush probably helped reduce the “wow that’s Cal Crutchlow” moment. He’s a legend. And, now, minutes before the start, the SPORTING GRP3 Nova Eroica ’17 group is finally complete.
Rolling out to the start was a bit of a shock. Sunny clear skies but only 4°c meant that we were shivering. I’m thinking I should have ridden yesterday instead of hanging out listening to Ryder Hesjedal telling old race stories, but we’ve got 90 km with those brutal Tuscan rolling hills to sort it out.
The gun goes off but they’re going to keep us in a neutral roll-out till the first gravel section. Sounds like a good warmup. 20m later things start to go south. I hit the shift button to go up on the big chainring but nothing happens. I try again. Nothing. Again. Nothing. So I try the back and it shifts. Stupid Di2 battery is nearly drained, and I figure out it’s probably because I’ve been hauling the bike around in the back of the car for a couple days and it was probably lying on a shift lever draining the battery. Di2 electric shifting will stop moving your power-sapping front derailleur when your battery is nearly empty but the back will keep shifting. Today’s hard ride just went out the window.
We head out of town, turn left and start into what seemed like a 10km hill. I dig deep to stay with the front group over the hill up until we hit the first real gravel section, the famous Santa Maria section that manages to rip the pro peloton to shreds. Cal and Rafael look pro, and well, Ryder will always be pro, and they disappear off in the distance. Richard is coming off a bit of a virus and I’m stuck in the middle as well as being stuck on the little ring. Might as well make this fun instead of suffering ignominiously into 300th place, so I pull up and snap a few photos while waiting a few moments for Richard who is still digging hard. It’s time to turn this around.
The pace turns more conversational as we finish off the Santa Maria gravel section and head for the first feed zone. It turns into a proper meal as we fuel up, chat, check out some of the other bikes and show off our own bikes. We even get some questions about this Chpt 3 kit we’re wearing. Richard makes some new fans from some Brits who are down for the race.
We set off again and have a mostly downhill run on asphalt and gravel till we hit some unknown ridiculously picturesque Tuscan village. At the left turn there’s a bar with a couple of the locals having their breakfast, and my suggestion for a coffee stop doesn’t take much arm twisting. We order and are sitting outside and flag down the next couple of groups that come by. Well, by this time they’re not really groups. More like dribs and drabs. And most take up the offer. 20 minutes later we’ve formed the laughing group.
The next 40kms take 2.5 hours as we raid the feed zones, stop for liquid refreshments at a couple of cafes, photograph the astounding scenery, and try to time it so we’ll finish the 90kms in the same time that Cal, Rafa and Ryder do the 160 kms. We still beat them handily, although the Garmin says something like 3.5 hours while the race clock is closer to 6. Best race I ever did.