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.