Eroica Britannia 2015

Bakewell, United Kingdom

Eroica Britannia is a vintage cycling festival in the Peak District. Based upon the original Eroica that departs from Giaole in Chianti, Tuscany but with a strong British flair. For the second year running the festival takes place in the quaint village of Bakewell. For three days the town is packed full woolen clad cyclists riding around on vintage steel bicycles older than myself.

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After a rather unsuccessful attempt at Eroica Primavera a few months before, I headed to Bakewell with a very strong desire to complete the race. I was invited to join Brooks England as a member of their B1866 team so I knew I was in with a good chance this time round. Well I looked the part at least, the Brooks x Santini jersey and bibs are absolutely stunning and with the Union Jack on arm, I felt very patriotic.

When we arrived on Friday evening, the festival was in full swing and Bakewell’s Showground was packed full of people dressed up in tweed, vintage cycling gear and fancy dress. The festival had the trademark Eroica vintage bicycle market, full of enough frames and components to build a peloton of bicycles. There were exhibitors ranging from Mercian Cycles and Vulpine to Lush Cosmetics and Houndworthy. Once you had your fill of shopping you could catch a cycle screening in the cinema tent, listen to live music or  take a ride on the ferris wheel at the fun fair. The weekend felt like a well organised, British summer fete with plenty of great food and drink on offer. Whether that be a Hendricks ‘Boneshaker Fizz’ that comes in fantastic metal bottle and Brooks bar end cork or a cocktail from the beautiful Fentimans tent.

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My bicycle for the weekend was a Geoffrey Butler, you may know his brother, Claud? Geoff was kindly provided by the friendly and knowledgeable, Glory Days. Almost entirely equipped with Shimano 600, some great Continental tyres and a lovely new Brooks B17. Needless to say, I was pretty happy with Geoff. The bar tape was pretty funky as well. The B17 is the widest Brooks saddle I have tried and after riding a fairly technical 55 miles I am extremely impressed. Normally I find myself fidgeting on my saddle to get comfortable but I didn’t need to do that once during the ride. I must rebuild my old Carlton..

Before we made our to Bakewell on Sunday morning, PEdALED presented us with superb socks to finish off our B1866 outfits. The weather was slightly concerning and as we gathered for a team B1866 photo, it started to rain very lightly so there were a few rain coats knocking about. Little did we know the British weather would change just as we arrived in Bakewell.

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After a short climb out of Bakewell, we were on the Monsal Trail, a 13.7 km path that follows the old Midland Railway Line. This was the first of the time we left the traffic behind and got to enjoy a little bit of gravel and some ace tunnels. This part reminded me a lot of my local bicycle route between Bristol and Bath but without any bizarre music in the tunnels!

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As we descended into Hartington for our food stop, we were gobsmacked by the amount of riders and bicycles. The entire outside of the pond was surrounded by bicycles or riders. We took a seat at the edge of the pond and tucked into some lovely food that would be suitable for any traditional British picnic. A couple of sandwiches, a jam scone, biscuit and some fantastic local Stilton, all washed down with half a pint of local beer of course. After Bregan finished his quick game of tug of (tyre) war with a friendly dog, we decided to set off and take on the infamously steep climb everyone kept talking about.

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Chatsworth House was our final food stop of the day. It is the seat of the Duke of Devonshire and has been home to the rather appropriately named, Cavendish family since 1549. We were greeted by some very smiley faces and treated to some award winning vanilla ice cream from Frederick’s of Chesterfield. I have never enjoyed ice cream so much. After a couple more sandwiches we washed it all down with some Champagne from the Rapha H Van and made our way to Bakewell.

My 62′ Tour de France style indulgence, made the last hill of the event very difficult and can only be described by myself as a complete bastard. I decided to demolish the banana I had in my jersey pocket whilst climbing and it kicked in just in time for crest of hill so I got enjoy the descent at least. I just caught up with 2 riding companions as we queued to cross the finish line.

The Eroica Britannia ride was the cherry on top of the cake. It was a fantastic weekend in Bakewell and I cannot thank Brooks England enough for inviting me and organising our trip so well. Thank you also to Glory Days for the loan of Geoff.

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