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LA CLASSICISSIMA D’EPOCA.

 

For the professionals, the annual Milan-San Remo at 294km is the longest one-day race in modern day cycling. That’s over seven hours in the saddle for yesterday's race winner and local hero Vincenzo Nibali. A momentous early season test. Apt, given it's the curtain raiser of cycling's five official 'Monuments'. Gruelling. At times tedious. Milan, as it was Saturday, is very often still in the midst of a bitter winter snap. In San Remo it's spring, the flowers bloom, but riders need more than glimpses of the Mediterranean to get them through this iconic Spring Classic. Yet Nibali and his contemporaries enjoy the benefits of being a top-class rider – support vehicles, a team of loyal gregari, bikes constructed in the latest aviation technology, food and drink on ready demand. Nothing left to chance.

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The inaugural Milan-San Remo was held in 1907. 33 riders started. 14 finished. The race took over 11 hours to complete on bobbly, uncomfortable roads with riders having to repair their own punctures and battling hunger. There are those who still yearn for those pioneering, seemingly halcyon days.

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The Bici d’Epoca community is not only fascinated with the bike itself but its rich culture and distinct stile di vita. Each year ahead of the Milan-San Remo, this group of elegant individuals, many adorning carefully manicured moustaches and all knitted in vintage chic from yesteryear, gather in Milan. They are here for the Classicissima d’Epoca, a non-competitive version of the one-day classic, which they ride on lovingly resorted bikes and in their thick woolen jerseys, rolled up socks, replenishing their thirst from heavy, steel bidons.

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Leaving Milan just before midnight they arrive along the Ligurian coast by 15:00 the following afternoon, mere hours before the professionals charge into the coastal town made famous by its casino and annual music festival. The professionals may be faster. But they are significantly less elegantly dressed.

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FOLLOW BLACK SHEEP'S STORIES AS WE MAKE OUR WAY THROUGH THIS YEAR'S SPRING CLASSICS PAYING TRIBUTE TO THE MAGNIFICENT 'MONUMENTS' THAT HAVE DEFINED OUR SPORT.

BE A BLACK SHEEP