L’Eroica Britannia was everything it promised to be and more, I’m still buzzing over how good it was.
This is the first time the Italian vintage cycling festival has been held on British soil and judging from the amazing reception it got this year I imagine it will sell out within seconds when entry opens for 2015.
I had been dying to go to the Italian L’Eroica after reading Juliet Elliot’s blog post last year so when I saw a British version was being held in the Peaks this year I wanted in. The weekend is a celebration of food, drink and all things vintage and finishes with 2,000 riders setting off on a 30, 55 or 100 mile ride.
You can dress up as little or as much as you like, the only stipulation being everyone rides a ‘Heroic’ bike, a pre-1987 road bike with down-tube shifters. There were some seriously beautiful bikes on display not least the gorgeous Vernon Barker I hired from vintage bike specialists Glory Days.
Our plan had always been to do the 100 mile route but on the journey it quickly came to light only one of us had booked Monday off work. Alex as captain of the vehicle (who HAD booked Monday off) got final say and driving for four hours after 100 miles was not no.1 on the list of things he wanted to do. So in order to make it back to work and not die on the motorway we decided to do the 55 instead.
Registration set the tone for the whole event, we were presented with a bottle of Handsome beer (brewed especially by Thornbridge) and a goody musette containing Hendricks Gin, tonic and a Bakewell Pudding. Glorious weather, booze, pudding, cycling, whats not to like.
I could easily go on about it all day but instead here are some of the highlights (and photos):
FRIDAY AND SATURDAY
Getting my hair done by the lovely girls at Lush cosmetics.
The week before the event I entered a competition to win tickets to a special L’Eroica dinner and then in classic Farrington fashion promptly forgot all about it. Friday afternoon I got a message from Catherine at Hills and Ellis who ran the comp (they make beautiful leather panniers) saying I had won. Before I knew what was happening we were riding up the Monsal trail with Gian the organiser of L’Eroica and a group of his guests.
The dinner was a celebration of local produce and it was incredible, I was lucky enough to be sat next to Mick from La Squadra who as a regular at the Italian L’Eroica had been instrumental in choosing the routes we would ride on the Sunday. Plus it was Jon’s birthday and he had Happy Birthday sung to him by the band and 100 assorted press, friends and family. So that worked out pretty well for all of us!
The birthday boy.
The birthday band.
Spraying a whole can of GT85 in Alex’s rear hub to try loosen up the bearings (the boys bought their bikes for 20 squid off ebay, Jon’s brake fell off).
The amazing set up of the couple next door.
SUNDAY: THE RIDE
Definitely don’t come to this ride under prepared, this is no easy-peasy fancy dress fun ride. The peaks are serious business. The 55 mile route featured over 6,000ft of ascent, the 100 mile over 10,000ft (even the 30 mile route had 2,000ft).
A good portion of the ride was off-road along on the High Peaks Trail and riders would often need to creep up gravel climbs in single file before spilling out onto gorgeous white gravel trails seemingly on top of the world.
Steep descents and tricky terrain means this ride is not for the faint of heart but the toughness is more than compensated for by the stunning scenery.
Entering the first tunnel on the Monsal Trail.
The ride was punctuated by three different food stops where we had our ride cards stamped and we could fill up on local treats. I had sandwiches, biscuits, ice cream, beer, cake all of the necessary food groups to power you over the peaks.
Enjoying ice cream at the second stop.
Prosecco stop at Chatsworth House, opened to riders especially for L’Eroica.
At the finish.
Stamp card and no.
As we drove back down South on Sunday evening I could barely keep my eyes open. Every time I nodded off I dreamed I was back on the trail.
Hats off to L’Eroica Britannia. A job very well done.