RIDE ON: Andrew McKellar (left), Chris Jude (second right) are gearing up again for the Noosa Strade Bianche. .
RIDE ON: Andrew McKellar (left), Chris Jude (second right) are gearing up again for the Noosa Strade Bianche. . Contributed

No race to finish in classic

TWO cycling mates, a few drinks and one epic idea: get a bunch of cyclists together and ride about 130km along the hinterland roads of the Noosa region.

En route, they will not only take in some spectacular countryside views but, in the true spirit of early cycling, they will tackle gravel roads, negotiate potholes, climb a few extreme hills and fly down some hairy descents.

Add the obligatory coffee and bakery stops and one important stipulation: only steel-framed bikes with down-tube shifters are allowed.

Inspired by the famous L'Eroica vintage cycling carnival held each year in and around the Italian town of Gaiole, Tuscany, the two friends knew they had the makings of a fantastic annual event.

"We found a clip about the L'Eroica in Italy on YouTube and it fired us up," Noosa building designer Andrew McKellar said.

"We thought, well, there's a heap of roads just north of here similar to the L'Eroica, and we started scouting around."

That was in 2011 and Mr McKellar and Chris Jude, along with 16 other cyclists set out to conquer a 116km course that would include "strade bianche" or "white (unsealed) roads", or gravel.

Every year since then, numbers of riders have doubled and this year almost 90 from across Australia and New Zealand will take on three rides over what is becoming an iconic weekend on the Noosa sporting calendar.

The Noosa Strade Bianche (pronounced Straday Biankee) held this weekend taps into the heroic past, feel and look of its Italian counterpart.

The legendary Italian race attracts riders from across the world, eager to test themselves and their vintage steeds on the rough gravel roads of the Tuscan countryside.

Even though it is not a race, a reasonably high level of fitness is required, with experienced riders from all walks of life turning up for the challenge.

"In 2012, we had a 70-year-old rider from Sydney take part," Mr McKellar said.

"He came up on a Greyhound bus with his bike in the hold, stayed at a backpackers and rode the whole 128km.

"We also had an accomplished mountain bike rider in 2013, who said the Gran Fondo was up there with some of the toughest races he's done."

A rundown of the course is given before the rides and Mr McKellar said pumping tyres nice and hard and maintaining proper nutrition was important.

"It's also good to form alliances with other riders," Mr McKellar said.

"Cycling is really a team thing - it's about working together, warning the guys behind you about hazards ahead.

"It's a great leveller."

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