The Jaguar I-PACE and Heroïn’s unique road bike – two of the world’s most sophisticated speedsters gather for a showdown on the Passo di Falzarego. A story of false kings and the three sides of intoxication.

“Falza Rego” in the local language of the Dolomites – “the False King” in English – is the name given to this mythical pass. It traces back to the legend of a king of the Fanes, so intoxicated by power, that he betrayed his people. As punishment, the king was turned to stone and you can still see the mass of rocks that make up his body as you crest the pass today. Fortunately for the king, he’s now got a front -seat to a whole other type of intoxication – namely that of adrenaline and speed. The Passo di Falzarego is a popular haunt for cyclists and has been a stage for no fewer than 19 editions of the Giro d’Italia, most recently in 2008. Those who cross the finish line first can justifiably claim to be one of the world’s best climbers and duly indulge themselves in a flush of victory.

The Passo di Falzarego links small towns in the Italian province of Belluno. However, those who choose to grace its tarmac haven’t only come here for a quintessential taste of South Tyrolean dolce vita. It’s a pilgrimage in itself, especially for motorists on the intoxicating quest for speed.
With hairpin after hairpin over its 15 kilometers, it’s a thrilling ribbon of tarmac that commands your full attention, lest you swerve, so distracted by the heady beauty around you. That may not end well. We’ve heard all about this form of intoxication from adrenaline and nowhere is it more talked-about than on this specific pass. We’ve picked two of the most apposite machines for the task, even though at first glance they couldn’t be further removed from each other.

The good – the perfect bike

The Heroïn is the result of a vision and the uncompromising pursuit of perfection. A bike that, contrary to the rest, has not been produced to satisfy a yearly launch schedule, or make profits. Its roots lie in a thought process, a dissection of what’s possible, an understanding of how to make what appears impossible into reality and an acceptance of how far a design with all its complexity and ensuing costs can be taken before too much becomes, quite simply, too much. An obsession like this may verge on delusional in many people’s eyes but is perhaps the best way to describe Heroïn, the luxury French brand that produces its bikes in Italy with masters of the trade. Their assembly process has been a deeply guarded secret for 30 years but suffice to say that every single tube is created to bespoke specifications before any further assembly is done.

Heroïn HR CUSTOM Edition | 7.3 kg tailored | € 11,500 | Manufacturer’s-Website

Drivetrain SRAM RED eTap, 2 x 11, 50–34 T
Cassette SRAM RED eTap XG-1190, 10–28 T
Brakes SRAM Red eTap HRD, 160/160 mm
Wheels DT Swiss PRC 1400 SPLINE DB 35
Tires Pirelli P Zero Velo, 700 x 25C
Seat post Heroïn carbon fiber Seat Post
Handlebar Heroïn compact integrated carbon fiber Handlebar, 420 mm
Stem Heroïn, 110 mm
Weight 7.3 kg tailored
Price € 11,500
Availability now available

The Heroïn has not had it easy: it has been asked to perform in the wind tunnel of the Magny-Cours Grand Prix circuit, where usually only the most advanced Formula 1 cars see the light of day. What did the engineering team learn? The Heroïn utilises a textured finish, similar to that of a golf ball, in strategic points, reducing air resistance. The design intent behind the monocoque fork visually lengthens the frame, while the almost seamless transition between fork and frame further serves to reduce air resistance. Wherever possible, the bike is stripped of cables, screws and clamps, resulting in an arrow-like profile. Done. Slick.

Once the ultimate bike has been created, why change anything? That’s why Heroïn offer a highly limited range. Rather than launching a new iteration every season, you’re simply left with the choice between a rim brake or disc brake model. You also choose what components are worthy of this speedmachine.

Jaguar I-PACE | 400 hp | € 77,850 | Manufacturer’s-Website

The bad – the aggressive Jaguar

Also in attendance on the Passo di Falzarego is the Jaguar I-PACE, with an equally captivating outward appearance and uncompromisingly advanced inner workings. The first all-electric vehicle to emerge from this classically British brand, the Jaguar I-PACE is a statement of intent, slicing through the air at high speeds. Above 105 km/h, its air-spring suspension squats down, improving the aerodynamics in the manner of a predatory big cat preparing to pounce on its prey. The integrated motor in the front and rear axles has a max torque of almost 700 Nm for 400 hp, propelling driver and car above the 100 km/h mark in less than 5 seconds.

The ugly – intoxicating speed

For this innovation-off on the Passo di Falzarego, the Jaguar and the Heroïn go head to head. World Car of the Year 2019, the Jaguar I-PACE needs little introduction, but the team behind the Heroïn have grander aspirations: creating the Road Bike of the Century.

We take to the start line. By the first curve, there’s little denying the parallels between the Heroïn and the Jaguar: both their accelerations elicit the same rush of adrenaline and they both quickly reach speeds that demand full concentration. The exacting nature of both vehicles is intense, displaying an efficiency and sense of power that incites us to test our abilities in the corners. Can the next curve be taken even faster? How far can I push the braking point? How much deeper can I lean into it? The creative power of the developers and designers imprints itself on our minds, focusing us solely on the speed, giving us such stark tunnel-vision that even the mountains become a haze, a barely-seen landscape. Intoxicated, we push hard on the pedals out of the corners and put our foot down in the I-PACE. But we know when to stop, when to ease off. This is the peak, the tipping point of our hedonism. We know what could be on the other side. This innovation-off has no winner ultimately. We call it a draw.

So long, Italy

We bid goodbye to the Passo di Falzarego, hushing our hearts and calming our senses. After being swept up by speed, it is only now that we recognise the exhaustion that begins to flood through our bodies. Neither the Jaguar nor the Heroïn can claim to be relaxing. Despite their overwhelming efficiency, they ask you to draw out every morsel of energy. After the ferocious innovation-off between the two, there’s no clear-cut winner. The false king didn’t rear his head in this battle and we showed reverence to the might of the pass and the potency of the speed. After all, the false king taught us that potency can be dangerous in the wrong hands, so, we’re thankful not to have to pay for the consequences. There’s no question that we will grace the Falzarego with our presence again, just the question of when. Hopefully soon.

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Words: Rudolf Fischer Photos: Valentin Rühl, Trevor Worsey