The Jeroboam gravel challenge — what have we gotten ourselves into?
At first glance, the Jeroboam 300, a new gravel race in the north of Italy, looks like the ideal weekend adventure — wine, sun, good views and a largely off-road 300km loop that circumnavigates Lago d’Iseo in Erbusco.
However, on closer inspection the event begins to reveal its true nature — tackling over 5,000m of ascent on terrain that is said to be “unrideable” in places, the organisers of the Jeroboam have openly admitted that they expect to have “few finishers”.
The debut edition of the Jeroboam is due to take place on the 20 May, and as Reuben Bakker-Dyos and I are a pair of self-confessed gravel divas, we’re heading off to Italy to check out the event.
The route traverses the vineyards of the Erbusco region3T
Based in a wine producing region, and known for its high-quality sparkling plonk, each of the three rides on offer are named after wine bottle sizes: the ‘Standard’ 75km (75cl), the ‘Magnum’ 150km (150cl) and the Jeroboam 300km (300cl).
After deciding that last month’s Dirty Reiver — a 200km gravel race in Northumberland — wasn’t quite punishment enough, we’ve opted for the longest of the three rides.
A cursory look at the profile of the GPX file for the route appears to suggest that there is not a single section of straight road around Lago D’Iseo. There’s also a distinct lack of flat terrain, with the 300km loop taking in a slightly worrying 5,000m of climbing.
The Jeroboam boasts great views… that we won’t get to see because it’ll be dark3T
To add to our terror, neither I nor Reuben realised that the ride starts at 4pm until after we’d registered and booked accommodation and flights.
Whether we will aim to tackle the loop in one go or stop for the night remains to be seen, but since we’re fully committed, we’re now in the midst of amassing a pile of lights, cold weather gear and sleeping bags in preparation for what will no doubt be a, uhh, memorable experience…
Of course, riding for such a long distance over mixed terrain demands a very specific bike, and for the event I’m going to be borrowing a 3T Exploro courtesy of the title sponsor of the event.