It is now two weeks since the event and I have to admit that I am still reflecting on my trip to L’Eroica Britannia. If I had any expectations about what to expect here (after attending L’Eroica Italia) they were totally shattered the first day. Although the two events share a name and a common theme they could not be more individual in character.
L’Eroica Britannia was a wonderful event and I enjoyed it immensely. It differs from its Italian counterpart in several ways though. The Italian event is more of a serious bike ride with a tougher course and is indeed a heroic event. The British event has scenery and adventure on a par with its cousin but offers more of a festival atmosphere. The riders are more casual and seem to be out for a good time. Perhaps this is a reflection of how Italy and Britain each embrace their cycling passion.
Now ranked as one of my better events L’Eroica Britannia is an interesting combination of cycling revival and hipster festival melded into one cool package. Maybe hipster isn’t the right word, since in the US hipster has a negative connotation. Dapper might be more correct with a measure of bohemian thrown into the overall vintage theme. Whatever the label, facial hair was well respected here.
One of the amazing things at the festival were the vendors, which were a very different group than was seen at L’Eroica Italia. Even though there were some vintage goods for sale here, many of the vendors were offering new gear in a traditional style. I was particularly impressed with the Holdsworth tent which was re-launching this classic brand to the market. They feature frames with classic styling and modern geometry and spacing. Their workmanship and detail was remarkable!
Dueling gin bars? The event itself embraced Tanqueray as a sponsor and had the Tanqueray gin bar at the registration tent. Hendricks Gin, an outsider came in with a strong showing at their venue across the way in what seemed to be a head to head competition. I personally can pronounce that Hendricks offered the superior product after a fair testing session.
The food stands were remarkable here, some of the best street food I have eaten, period. Portland Oregon, my adopted city, and home to great food carts could take a lesson from the Brits! Never let it be said that British food is in some way subpar, the opposite is true!
The village of Bakewell was an excellent venue for this event, it featured a lovely old town center in the heart of the Peak District and an excellent fairground to host the event. It offered all the best that Derbyshire had to offer in both scenery and local charm. The Peaks District may be among the most wonderful areas in the UK for cycling! Portland Square may be one of my favorite spots in Derbyshire, featuring not only the best fish & chips in the area but also one of the best whiskey shops to be found anywhere, the Wee Dram.
The start of L’Eroica Britannia was classic, low key but with style. We started in a narrow street in old Bakewell and it was SO casual. I was among the early starters and went off in the first wave of 30 riders. The start of the event was large on pomp and circumstance but low on intensity. The riders here came to have a good time!
For me the toughest climb of the day came after the first rest at Tideswell and before the second rest at Derbyshire Bridge. The climb over Mam Nick averaged 15% in its 2 miles with some short and much steeper pitches in its length. We climbed out of the Edale Valley and into the mists above, still in the early morning light. Many riders walked portions of this climb, including myself but we were saving ourselves for the greater good!
Some rest stops were busier than others. Hartington Village was the third stop for the 100 mile riders and the first stop for the 55 mile riders. I was there apparently at its peak along with many hundreds of other riders. The offerings of beer , sausage and pound cake made for a hearty brunch!
Many of the dirt sections had quite a good surface. We were on the Tissington Trail (an old rail trail converted to bike path) for several miles and it was an 18 to 20 mph run all the way. I cruised by a lot of people here, mostly 55 mile riders I believe. The Legnano with its 32mm tires was perfect for this!
The festival grounds were set up so that finishing riders would be greeted by the many spectators. It was a warm and welcome reception, and the food and beer tents were right there too! On the day of the event there were many thousands of people here and every rider was cheered. I went straight to the beer tent!
All in all I loved L’Eroica Britannia. I think that the organizers did a remarkable job of putting the event and festival together and there were very few glitches that were visible to the participant or spectator. I could only offer a couple of minor suggestions if I was asked to critique the event and I would return to do it again in a heartbeat should the opportunity present itself. Thank you L’Eroica Britannia and also the village of Bakewell for your great hospitality and warm reception during my visit!