A great bike ride starts with a great route. Since Eroica Britannia started in 2014, the man in charge of deciding which lines on the map to follow has been Marco Mori.
Like Eroica Britannia itself, Marco has one foot in Britain and another in Italy. "I was introduced to cycling when I was 11 years old by my uncle in Italy," Marco explains. "I used to support his racing team when I came over to Italy for the summer holidays.
"I took up cycling properly when I was 16 with my local team in Sheffield. I enjoyed cycling, the camaraderie and the changing scenery. Some of the riders from those days are my friends even now."
Marco drifted away from cycling for few years at uni and when working in London, but rediscovered his love for the sport when he moved back to Sheffield.
Meanwhile Marco was enjoying a successful career in the travel business, working for several of big-name companies. But he had the urge to start out on his own.
"I wanted to do something for myself, bringing together my experience as a tour operator with my passion for cycling and knowledge of Tuscany. So I set up Gusto Cycling, running cycling tours in Italy."
By this time, the original Italian Eroica had been established for more than a decade, and its international reputation was growing. Marco remembered reading about Eroica some years before, and contacted the organisers.
"Most cycling events in Italy are about getting your head down all the way to the finish and setting a good time – Eroica was something completely different. It was very relaxed, there was good food and wine, a sense of camaraderie, beautiful old steel bikes. And there were riders from all over the world."
Marco started promoting Eroica through his company. "I was having coffee with the directors one day and they mentioned that they were expanding the brand with Eroica Japan. It got me thinking, would it be possible to run an Eroica event in England? They said yes."
It took a couple of years of negotiating and planning, but Marco became one of the original organisers of Eroica Britannia. As a Sheffield native with years of cycling on and off road, and the experience of running his own cycling tours, he was perfectly placed to plan routes for Eroica Britannia 2014.
Mixing the quiet lanes of the Peaks with traffic-free trails made for stunning riding, but Marco didn't settle for running the same routes at future events.
"The routes are always a work in progress. We're always looking to improve, and to find something new."
So, just what makes a really great cycling route?
"We have to be conscious of safety," says Marco, "and visually the ride has to be a good experience. And it needs to be a challenge, otherwise what's the point? Eroica Britannia has to remind us how tough it was to ride on old steel bicycles from the Golden Age of cycling. You should end the ride with an appreciation of what you've achieved, especially on a vintage bike."
With Eroica moving to its new home in the South Downs, Marco has been working closely with Goodwood's keen cyclists to plan routes for the taster event at the Revival, as well as the three Classic Rides for Eroica Britannia 2022.
"It's all new to me, but I've been supported by the directors at Goodwood as well as the team at The Great Sussex Way," Marco explains. "They've recommended places to feature, pretty villages, a winery, a polo club. Their local knowledge of places and routes has given me a start, but I've been exploring for myself over several days, driving and cycling promising sections of road and off-road. I've been tweaking the routes to make sure they are safe, a good experience, and a true challenge."
Marco already has a good sense of where each ride will go when Eroica Britannia returns in 2022, but just as with the old Classic Rides in the Peaks, he expects to make refinements over time.
"A route will never be finalised in its first year. It will always evolve with experience. We'll never have the same route each time," he says.
Having grown up with the Peaks on his door step, what does Marco think of cycling in the Sussex South Downs?
"There are so many quiet country lanes, and every village seems to have a pub!" Marco enthuses. "The South Downs has some beautiful views. I think Eroica Britannia regulars will really enjoy the experience. We'll put on a really good show!"
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