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

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 comments

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SamShaw [264 posts] 1 year ago
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Not jealous... not jealous at all.

Looks like this one's here to stay, it's only going to get bigger and better judging by the positivity surrounding the event. Look forward to getting there myself in the coming years!

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P3t3 [198 posts] 1 year ago
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Where is this "Peaks" where the event took place? If it was in Derbyshire then it was probably in The Peak District, which is colloquially known as "The peak". It isn't the Peak District because it is full of peaks, its the Peak District because its the region formerly of the Pecsaetans.

I know you are in Bristol, but its a bit of a clanger for a local...

Pedantry over

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farrell [1950 posts] 1 year ago
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SamShaw wrote:

it's only going to get bigger and better judging by the positivity surrounding the event. Look forward to getting there myself in the coming years!

There was a fair lump of negativity about it on here a few months ago, mainly driven by people moaning about the price if I remember rightly.

I thought it was reasonably priced at the £75/80 mark, but looking at the pictures if I had taken up the offer of the early bird ticket at £40/50 or whatever it was then it would have been an absolute steal.

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mattbianchi [16 posts] 1 year ago
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P3t3 wrote:

Where is this "Peaks" where the event took place? If it was in Derbyshire then it was probably in The Peak District, which is colloquially known as "The peak". It isn't the Peak District because it is full of peaks, its the Peak District because its the region formerly of the Pecsaetans.

wow, you're right. that extra S ruined the whole article for me, i couldn't make head nor tail of any of it after reading that. In fact i think i'll go and smash my computer to pieces now, because EVERYTHING IS RUINED

ffs.

PS this is you: http://xkcd.com/386/

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Some Fella [890 posts] 1 year ago
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Im sure the hospitals of Derbyshire were overflowing with injured, reckless, helmetless cyclists after this.
Absolutely crazy to have a mass participation event on bicycles where people are allowed to choose whether to wear a helmet or not and therefore ensuring certain death (or worse).
Stop this madness now!

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farrell [1950 posts] 1 year ago
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I'm pretty sure my mates and I all refer to it as "The Peaks", even the ones that live there.

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therevokid [911 posts] 1 year ago
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isn't it "L'Eroica" ????

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Maggers [55 posts] 1 year ago
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They've got the franchise for the next 4 years at least.

It was an amazing celebration of cycling. Beer and cake at food stops should be commended.

Some of the Strade Bianche sections were a little tough going on the decents but go to show how much you can do on a road bike with 25mm tyres. Just make sure you've got everything tightened down. Guy I was riding with's front caliper retaining nut parted company, causing the whole caliper to be ejected out the front of his bike when he braked. Thankfully the very willing mechanics at the next stop sorted him out.

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David Else [99 posts] 1 year ago
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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.

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Mat Brett [599 posts] 1 year ago
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P3t3 wrote:

I know you are in Bristol, but its a bit of a clanger for a local...

So's that. We're in Bath.

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darrenleroy [198 posts] 1 year ago
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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?

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monty dog [446 posts] 1 year ago
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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?

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Mr Randonneur [1 post] 1 year ago
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 16 Brilliant I wish I had been there, L'eroica Britannia is here to stay I hope, the PEAKS look superb must have a PEAK sometime soon!...off now feeling a little PEAK...ish prob will have a PEAK frean biscuit!
Ha ha there is always one isnt there!

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Pauldmorgan [217 posts] 1 year ago
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I was there. It was a fantastic ride and a great event. The entry price included camping for three nights so I think it represented good value. The free food along the way was all local produce and very tasty and the Pimms stop at Chatsworth house (93miles) was a nice touch. The route was challenging but not crazy and the long sections along strade bianche style gravel trails and the railway tunnels were very memorable although a little sketchy and challenging at times on 23mm tyres.

The festival had plenty going on for non-riding friends and family and it's a great area for making a long weekend of it. Great food and beer, live music, fairground rides etc etc Very friendly locals along the way - puts the New Forest to shame!

A different kind of bike porn on display than at the usual cafe stop. If you don't appreciate all of that steel and chrome then you've lost connection with the soul of cycling. Putting together my steed (a Molteni Merckx) and outfit over the weeks and months has been great fun too. I need to try harder on the decorative facial hair front though!

You seemingly can't avoid the helmet debate on any thread on this site. My own personal feeling was that I didn't fancy being unprotected (within the range of impact parameters where a helmet affords some degree of mitigation of the degree of injury) so I borrowed a friend's 1980s original Bell monstrosity so I looked the part to some degree. This ride emphasised personal choice and being less competitive than your usual sportive. It's not a risk-free activity though. On one of the longest/fastest descents I encountered the aftermath of a very nasty looking wipeout with the unlucky guy bleeding pretty heavily from the head. I hope he's OK.

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davkt [40 posts] 1 year ago
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It was fantastic! Price wise don't forget it included 3 nights camping for you and your family in the Peak District.
Missing famous climbs? Well it would have needed to be a couple of times longer to get them all and even the 30 mile had a sting in the tail of the Monsal Hill Climb!
Didn't wear a helmet this time but then I grew up riding these roads and trails (thats why my 1984 Raleigh Gran Course was wearing 28mm Gatorskins!) in a time before anyone but racers wore helmets.
Had fun picking up all the £1000ish vintage Pinarellos and Colagnos and finding them heavier than my Raleigh but then I suppose 30 years ago it was the top non custom frame from a maker at the top of the game!

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Jones The Steam [34 posts] 1 year ago
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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.

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badback [302 posts] 1 year ago
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therevokid wrote:

isn't it "L'Eroica" ????

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

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themartincox [467 posts] 1 year ago
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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.

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badback [302 posts] 1 year ago
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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.

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Some Fella [890 posts] 1 year ago
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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

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Martin Thomas [376 posts] 1 year ago
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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.

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farrell [1950 posts] 1 year ago
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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.

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Some Fella [890 posts] 1 year ago
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I think we are hitting Peak Peak

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farrell [1950 posts] 1 year ago
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synoptic [10 posts] 1 year ago
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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.

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WolfieSmith [1244 posts] 1 year ago
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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...

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stuartp [67 posts] 1 year ago
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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.

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Garrrrrr [7 posts] 1 year ago
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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.

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

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rhodrigo27 [17 posts] 1 year ago
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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.

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Paul J [836 posts] 1 year ago
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Farrell, It's not Peking, it's Bei Jing. Peking is from Westerners mispronouncing Bei Jing. Get Iceland to fix that! Pedantry over.  3

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