L'Eroica Britannia: best of British

Martin Cox journeys to the Peaks for the inaugural British retro revival

by themartincox   June 23, 2014  

As the sun sets on the inaugural Eroica Britannia, the tents are being collapsed and within the Bakewell showground walk the tired, but happy, bodies of hundreds of sun-worn cyclists. This first edition featured 3 days of festival activities, including live music, open-air cinema, and the opportunity to have a wet shave from a dancing barber - amongst many others.

With the event capped – and sold-out at – 2,000 riders it always promised to be something different from the standard sportive that can be found every weekend around the country. Styled on the classic Eroica in Italy, the British version was an opportunity for riders of classic bikes to get them out en-masse and really get to grips with the Derbyshire countryside. And how they set about to do just that.

Ancient Raleighs, Peugeots and Colnagos were to be found around the campsite, accompanied by riders from all corners of the world; the sound of Japanese, Italian and Spanish mingled in with British from these shores and from our American cousins.

The Saturday was a rest-day, one for families to enjoy the showground together. It was a true festival atmosphere, with shopping and eating to help pass the time. Sunday brought the main event with 3 rides to choose from; 30, 55, and 100 miles of the finest that the Peak District could offer, on back-roads, tracks and shared-use paths.

Perhaps it was the bikes, perhaps it was the people riding them, or perhaps it was how they were being ridden, but the consensus was simple: the riders were greeted with smiles and warm hello's from passing walkers, not to mention the choir that was singing at the end of one of the old tunnels that formed the course.

The feed stops were packed with local food, not a gel or energy drink to be found, just local sandwiches, sausages and ice-cream, all consumed with gratitude and gusto. In keeping with the spirit of the ride, there was also remarkably little litter to be found on the course, with just a handful of gel wrappers to be found along the route, most of which looked like they'd been there a while.

With the routes described as 'challenging', riders set off in waves, from 7am onwards, with crowds wishing them well from the outset, prepared for the hills that lay in wait for them.

Although some of the more famous climbs may have been omitted, the rides still provided plenty of scope for lung-busting efforts in the glorious sunshine. From long drags, to intensely sharp hills, the route planners managed to provide a mix to fulfil the promise of a challenging day, seeing bikes being pushed up some of the sharper inclines was a common sight, with no stigma attached in the happy atmosphere on course.

As to be expected in the Peak District, each hill brought with it the reward of fantastic views over the countryside, undoubtedly helped by the glorious weather over the whole weekend. The rolling countryside giving a silent boost to every rider at the very moment when they needed it.

And the descents, oh those glorious descents. With testing singletrack, open roads and glorious shaded woodland the descents brought cheek-aching levels of smiles to the participants with laughter, merriment and shared experiences providing common bonds amongst the riders of classic steel cycles.

Happy villagers, stress-free roads and smiling walkers really showed what an event can provide for riders, with the tired but happy finishers greeted with cheers and rounds of applause by hundreds of spectators waiting for them at their final destination.

Without a shadow of a doubt, this inaugural edition of the Eroica Britannia was a resounding success, the smiles of fellow festival goers confirming what was in the mind already. Already you can sense that plans are afoot for riders to return next year, the heady combination of scenery, festivities and locally-produced food being a clear winner.

Road.cc were in attendance at the Eroica Britannia as guests of Brooks England, many thanks to them for the invite.

45 user comments

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I was there too. My family and I had an amazing weekend. I can only echo the comments above - I've done numerous sportives in the UK, but never have I felt so welcome as I did on the Sunday ride. Being cheered and clapped as we rode through gorgeous little villages was a unique experience!
If you're of a certain age, the bikes on display will have made you go weak at the knees.
We'll definitely be back next year.

posted by Jones The Steam [19 posts]
23rd June 2014 - 21:23

133 Likes

therevokid wrote:
isn't it "L'Eroica" ????

Nah it's t'Eroica that's what we call it in t'Peaks anyway.

Velotastic !

Too many hills, but too little time.

badback's picture

posted by badback [267 posts]
23rd June 2014 - 21:29

136 Likes

monty dog wrote:
So how was it for those that didn't get a free jersey and schmoozed by Brooks? If this is going the way of L'Eroica in Italy then there's nothing like a bunch of free-loaders getting in the way of those that paid their entry and feel like they're only there to serve the needs of the sponsors and their guests?

Hi Monty Dog

as you can see here --> https://twitter.com/themartincox/status/481021039254986752/photo/1

I'm giving my Brooks Jersey and Shorts away, so to be honest I don't think my integrity has been compromised too much.

I actually found myself at several times throughout the weekend asking people around me if this was 'normal' and the resounding answer was 'no', it was an abnormal experience for nearly everyone, quite simply it was an excellent weekend!

regardless of whether I get invited next year or not, I'll be there.

Racer 074 for the 2014 Transcontinental Race; 2,000 miles from London to Istanbul.

http://themartincox.co.uk/2014/03/racer-074-transcontinental-race-2014/

posted by themartincox [350 posts]
23rd June 2014 - 21:31

133 Likes

Best thing for me was there was no segment obsession, no going for the fastest time and riding on the rivet The whole thing was about the journey as someone eloquently put it to me.

I paid the entry fee and did not even camp (I only live the other side of the hill in Chesterfield) and think it was excellent value compared to some sportives I've done.

I had a conversation with a bloke who came to our stand who was a cyclist and not doing the ride and was having a bit of a how much moment about the price. (He didn't mind visiting the festival bit and enjoying the entertainment for free though). We both eventually agreed that if you wanted to pay less then just rock up at your local Audax, but if you wanted a little more for your experience this was what you should be after.

Velotastic !

Too many hills, but too little time.

badback's picture

posted by badback [267 posts]
23rd June 2014 - 21:56

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darrenleroy wrote:
Was it classed as a sportive and was there insurance coverage? The reason I ask is that (sensibly) riders could choose their headwear or lack of it, whereas at other events (Wiggle) failure to don the polystyrene will result in ejection from the event due to 'insurance issues.' Can anyone illuminate please?

There was a clause in the rules (article 6) which make the 'rules' concerning helmet wearing at sportives sound so ambiguous that any legal bod who could be bothered would, im sure, tear holes in any sportive which insists you wear one.

http://www.eroicabritannia.co.uk/file/rules

posted by Some Fella [766 posts]
23rd June 2014 - 22:06

138 Likes

I was there too - it was a brilliant weekend amazingly well managed considering it was the first one. I did wonder how much fun some of the tracks would have been in the rain (there were quite a few descents I wouldn't have fancied at all if my 53 year-old brakes had been wet) but thankfully that was gloriously irrelevant because the weather was fantastic all weekend. I will be going back too.

Martin Thomas's picture

posted by Martin Thomas [570 posts]
23rd June 2014 - 23:06

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David Else wrote:
Sounds like a great event.

> I'm pretty sure my mates and I all refer to it as "The Peaks", even the ones that live there.<

Purely on the geographical point, I'm with p3t3 on this. You and your mates may call it "The Peaks", as do many other people (understandably, it's a very common error), but the correct name for this area is indeed The Peak.

Dark Peak.

White Peak.

The Peaks.

posted by farrell [1457 posts]
23rd June 2014 - 23:48

135 Likes

I think we are hitting Peak Peak

posted by Some Fella [766 posts]
23rd June 2014 - 23:56

134 Likes

posted by farrell [1457 posts]
24th June 2014 - 0:03

138 Likes

Great event all round, and much better value than any 30 quid sportive I ever entered.

Only negative points were the toilet issues, some horse scaring numpty, and a sweary motorcylist having a pop (not only ironic coming from a fellow two wheeled transport user, but also uncalled for as I was just stood by side of the road minding my own business at the time).

Amazing atmosphere - the only bike event I would unhesitatingly do again.

posted by synoptic [8 posts]
24th June 2014 - 0:51

133 Likes

My mate persists in mispronouncing it as 'Erotica'. I imagined him turning up on his bike in stockings and suspender belt and being a little disappointed...

Silly me. You're probably right....

MercuryOne's picture

posted by MercuryOne [1059 posts]
24th June 2014 - 7:46

134 Likes

Similar, but much smaller scale event here if anyone is interested in it:

http://chilterncyclingfestival.com/

I am not connected with it at all, I just saw it advertised locally.

posted by stuartp [61 posts]
24th June 2014 - 8:26

128 Likes

David Else wrote:
Sounds like a great event.

> I'm pretty sure my mates and I all refer to it as "The Peaks", even the ones that live there.<

Purely on the geographical point, I'm with p3t3 on this. You and your mates may call it "The Peaks", as do many other people (understandably, it's a very common error), but the correct name for this area is indeed The Peak.

The fact that there's a "Dark Peak" and a "White Peak" shows that this whole argument is nonsense

posted by Garrrrrr [7 posts]
24th June 2014 - 8:38

128 Likes

I went down this weekend just to be a part of it as I live locally. I didn't know about it early enough to get one of the 2000 rider spots available. From my point of view it was fantastic. So many lovely bikes and incredible outfits. The crowds of people all seemed to be in a similar mindset with everyone enjoying the sunshine and talking about bikes. the weather was astounding and after chatting to a lot of the stall holders everyone one was really happy with the organisation and the whole event. I will certainly be entering it next year, so far I have recruited 6 others too!

This whole helmet / insurance debate....... this was an event with beautiful bikes, beautiful scenery and beautiful people. Common sense and smiles ruled the course.

posted by rhodrigo27 [7 posts]
24th June 2014 - 8:49

142 Likes

Farrell, It's not Peking, it's Bei Jing. Peking is from Westerners mispronouncing Bei Jing. Get Iceland to fix that! Pedantry over. Wink

posted by Paul J [628 posts]
24th June 2014 - 8:57

126 Likes

Paul J wrote:
Get Iceland to fix that! Pedantry over. Wink

For clarity, do you mean the shop or do I have to re-educate an entire country?

I don't want to have to come back to this thread only to be told I've got something wrong again!

posted by farrell [1457 posts]
24th June 2014 - 9:00

127 Likes

Garrrrrr wrote:

The fact that there's a "Dark Peak" and a "White Peak" shows that this whole argument is nonsense

Indeed; the fact it is not Dark Peaks and White Peaks suggests the its not the Peaks.

If you want to refer to it as "The Peaks" then you need to start from calling it "The Peaks District", which isn't the case. Not in any literature of any sort and not by the Peak District National Park for example.

The whole point is that that the name doesn't come from it being an area of peaks.

posted by P3t3 [50 posts]
24th June 2014 - 9:48

131 Likes

P3t3 wrote:
If you want to refer to it as "The Peaks" then you need to start from calling it "The Peaks District", which isn't the case. Not in any literature of any sort and not by the Peak District National Park for example.

The original name may come from the Pecsaetons, but your original point suggested that locals didn't call it The Peaks, I and many others know that they do.

Both www.peakdistrict.gov.uk and www.visitpeakdistrict.com refer to and use the term "The Peaks", I would class a website as literature, you may not. I'm fairly sure that I have had brochures for The Peaks that reference and use the term The Peaks but I don't have them to hand right now.

The term is also used by the Youth Hostel Association, The Met Office and several others with interest in the area.

You say the area isn't an area of peaks but the area has the Dark Peak and the White Peak, surely the plural of peak is peaks? Or do I have to go back and rewatch David Lynch's 'Twin Peak"?

I fear we have wasted far too much time on this.

posted by farrell [1457 posts]
24th June 2014 - 10:31

135 Likes

at Cambridge Cycling Campaign, we run a mass bike ride (families etc) under Bikeweek insurance. We had the best part of a thousand riders and passengers this year (youngest rider was 6, not bad for a 28 mile ride- youngest passenger I heard an age being defined in weeks). Helmets weren't compulsory and indeed were the minority...

posted by Al__S [547 posts]
24th June 2014 - 10:36

128 Likes

farrell wrote:

I fear we have wasted far too much time on this.

you think?

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7385 posts]
24th June 2014 - 11:07

134 Likes

Dave Atkinson wrote:
farrell wrote:

I fear we have wasted far too much time on this.

you think?

What can I say, it piqued my interest.

posted by farrell [1457 posts]
24th June 2014 - 12:25

123 Likes

farrell wrote:

What can I say, it piqued my interest.

Nice.

Racer 074 for the 2014 Transcontinental Race; 2,000 miles from London to Istanbul.

http://themartincox.co.uk/2014/03/racer-074-transcontinental-race-2014/

posted by themartincox [350 posts]
24th June 2014 - 14:25

126 Likes

The insurance requirement is bollocks, I strongly suspect. If an event has an insurance policy where a participant not wearing a helmet could cause the organiser to face legal or financial risks, then the insurance policy isn't worth much. The organiser would have to be an idiot not to find a better insurer, if that were true.

If you ran a sportive, would you be happy with a 3rd party liability insurance scheme that covered you against damages *except* where it involved a rider, outside of your control, removing a helmet? No you wouldn't. Nor would any real sportive organiser.

I've asked these sportive organisers who say they require helmets because of their insurance to show me the policy, but they always refuse. One of the road.cc staff claims to have seen a policy requiring it, but again, no actual policy text to back it up.

British cycling non-competitive event insurance, FWIW, does not require that riders wear helmets. So any sportive under its auspices whose organisers try to claim that the insurance requires helmets would definitely be talking bollocks.

As for the person above claiming it was a scandal that this retro-sportive allowed non-helmet-wearers to take part: If not wearing a helmet is such a huge risk, why weren't there dozens of people injured in this sportive?

The truth is that non-competitive cycling is pretty safe, with or without helmet. That there is a car-loving lobby, and a number of Stockholm-syndrome afflicted cyclists, who screech otherwise and try to denormalise cycling, does not change that fact.

posted by Paul J [628 posts]
24th June 2014 - 14:50

133 Likes

I can only echo this blog and all the other commentary I have seen. Absolutely superb event. Really fancied it when it was announced but baulked at the price as I generally avoid events that cost more than £20. However all the added extras on this I feel justified the fee, especially if you camped over for a night or two.

I was lucky enough to win an entry via a draw being done on the Brooks website. They then emailed me a couple of days later saying "some of our winners can't make it, would you like to bring a guest?". Errr - yes please!

My guest's best mate and family live in Hathersage, just a few miles from Bakewell, so we went and stayed the Saturday night with them. They were at a mini music festival somewhere in the East Midlands and not expecting to get home until after midnight, so we drove over (from Lancs) fairly late, parked the car and hit the pub. Four pints later we got the "we're home" text so back to the house for a nip of whisky and a slice of toast before heading to the open-air swimming pool. Yes, on the Summer Solstice the pool stays open until 3.30am! Fantastic experience!

Left the pool about 2.30, back to the house for another large nip and watch the crescent moon rise over the hills as the sky starts to lighten. With my alarm set for 6am I hit the sack about 3.30. Perhaps not the Sportive preparation that you see recommended in all those magazine articles but hey, it wasn't London-Brighton we were tackling after all...

Had that "what the hell?!" feeling when the alarm went off, then remembered, pulled on my gear, quick cup of tea and half a bagel then drove down to Bakewell. We were a few minutes late for the 730am cutoff to start the 100 mile but nobody tried to stop us. Tried to balance the "get to the breakfast stop quickly" against "don't burn out too quickly" and successfully made it to Tideswell for bacon rolls and proper coffee (yes - proper filter and espresso coffee at a Sportive feedstop). That set the tone for the rest of the stops except the mini one at Derbyshire Bridge which was being run by Rapha. Who had run out! Boo!

We were welcomed through every village with smiling faces and chatted to various other participants and other awestruck cyclists throughout. Being in a line of guys on skinny-tyred vintage steel racing bikes blasting (politely of course) past groups of mountain-bikers on some of the white gravel trails was a particular highlight.

Reckon we'll be back next year even if I do have to pay for a ticket this time. Also reckon I'll be back riding in Derbyshire sooner than that as well- what fantastic cycling country it is.

posted by Bhachgen [91 posts]
24th June 2014 - 20:12

125 Likes

The helmet issue was circumnavigated by classifying the event as "heritage" and therefore making it somehow exempt. The same i'm sure applies to the fact that beer, champagne and Pimms were served at the incredible feed stations.

This is not a sportive and should not be thought of as much. It was a fantastic festival of cycling, a fancy dress procession or a glorious touring "picnic". No timing of any sort took place and no one even cared which route you rode (long, medium, short).

I for one cannot wait to ride it again next year. I absolutely loved it and am already planning to seek out more vintage clobber next year (including a retro leather helmet if funds allow).

Just like classic cars don't require seat belts and airbags, neither should this require modern carbon/polystryrene helmets which clash with your vintage steed and woollen jersey.

danlindfield's picture

posted by danlindfield [18 posts]
25th June 2014 - 18:36

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The insurance issue is the one I use to determine whether I enter an event. If the organisers demand a helmet, I don't enter.

Whenever I've asked why the organisers have a helmet rule, they first say that it's an insurance requirement, then when I check with the insurers I find that they don't have any such rule, so the organisers say it's "health and safety" and when I point out that the H&S executive have specifically excluded cycle helmets from the designation "personal protective equipment" they just say it's their event and they make the rules. I even had one organiser who claimed that helmets were mandatory in France!

Possibly the most disgraceful events are the Help for Heroes rides, which have mandatory helmets. I'm pretty sure our armed forces didn't risk their lives so that petty beaurocrats can make up idiotic rules, rather the opposite.

So organisers who insist on helmets are totally incompetent and I wouldn't enter any event organised by them.

burtthebike

posted by burtthebike [69 posts]
25th June 2014 - 19:02

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burtthebike wrote:

Possibly the most disgraceful events are the Help for Heroes rides, which have mandatory helmets. I'm pretty sure our armed forces didn't risk their lives so that petty beaurocrats can make up idiotic rules, rather the opposite.

I am reminded of the funny story of an off duty soldier buying a coffee on a Virgin train and the attendant insisting that the hot beverage be served with a lid 'for health and safety reasons'.
The soldier dryly responded "Ive just returned from a tour of duty fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan so i think ill take my chances with a cup of coffee"

posted by Some Fella [766 posts]
25th June 2014 - 23:36

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a very nice feature on L'Eroica Brittania on tonights InCycle, Sky Sports 4 , 7pm and Online tomorrow... the official film is coming very soon too...

Cycling Content Producer / Editor

FurnaceMedia's picture

posted by FurnaceMedia [17 posts]
2nd July 2014 - 10:25

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Sky Go website has never heard of "Incycle". Was it on that "Riding the Dales" programme?

posted by Bhachgen [91 posts]
3rd July 2014 - 12:47

119 Likes

Found the Incycle segment on Youtube:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AlPIimHSLag&list=UUXgba6tOLghtJuXaD8LBHWg

Didn't spot myself! Fingers crossed I made the cut for the official film...

posted by Bhachgen [91 posts]
4th July 2014 - 8:47

122 Likes