At L’Eroica Grand Junction, it’s not about riding fast; it’s about riding in style
Written by Priscilla Magnall:
What makes a cyclist want to ride 100 miles on his road bike over rough terrain dressed like his Great-great Grandfather? Because he can.
Over 110 years ago, this was The Big Thing in the Grand Valley and across the world. Granted, they didn’t have today’s modern asphalt but they had the gumption and Road Race Fever.
When Grand Junction Wheelman, Harold Gesberg had his photo taken at the foot of the bridge on Colorado Avenue in Glenwood Springs, he looked the hero, ready for his plunge in the Hot Springs Pool. The year was 1915 and he and dozen or so other contestants rode the Midland railroad to Glenwood Springs where they would train. The undefeated Champion, Rex Barber, had chosen Green River, Utah as his training ground.
The Glenwood Road Race had it’s beginnings in 1898 and happened annually until WWI took its toll. Internationally, bicycling was the fashion and an essential mode of transportation. Two wheels rode along-side four legs. City ordinances enforced heavy fines on cyclists who were caught speeding, riding recklessly or startling horses. The Midland Road Race was a special day for Grand Valley and Roaring Fork citizens alike. A special excursion train was dispatched to take spectators to the race site as they rode along the race route from Basalt to Glenwood to cheer the boys on to Victory. For a $2.50 round trip fare on the Denver & Rio Grand Western Railway, the ride would include a Grand Junction Band traveling on the train and at the finish of the race, a baseball game, first aid contests and awards ceremony and a dip in the pool would make for an exciting day. The Midland Special would leave for home at 9:30, taking spectators, the band, the boys and their bikes back home.
In 1901, Fruita Wheelman John Beard won the 23 mile race with a time of one hour, 16 minutes and 23 seconds. The Social Wheel Club took a team of fellows to compete for the title. Some say they didn’t take the train but instead, rode all the way on the new Midland Trail Highway to train for the ride. Fact or fiction, this is where L’ Eroica comes in.
A century old tradition in Italy, riders compete to become L’ Eroica or in English, The Heroic. Equipped with vintage bikes, clothes and attitudes, they ride somewhere between 38 and 200 km and hopefully finish the longest leg in under 12 hours. As local bicyclist put it, “It’s not about riding fast; it’s about riding in style.” The Grand Junction L’ Eroica, will mimic the Italian route with plenty of bone shaking roads but with a bounty of rewards at the finish line.
The Big Thing this year will be to ride in the L’Eroica Grand Junction. Taking the historic Midland Road Race one step further and riding 102 miles from Grand Junction to Glenwood. With a smack-down challenge, between Grand Valley and Roaring Fork Valley riders, who will be the next hero?