Monday, 23 June 2014

L'Eroica in Derbyshire....

So, Gary gets to work and his boss says 'Hey, what's this Eroica thing, something to do with bikes - I thought it was Erotica at first glance'... In fact L'Eroica is a unique event. An Italian cycling festival held each year in Tuscany and run on ancient, bone-shaking gravel roads (strada blanche) with vintage racing bikes, woollen jerseys and fuelled by rich Italian food and wine.

This year, the three day festival has moved to Bakewell in Derbyshire, the first time the event has visited the UK - and whilst we can't offer the strada blanche, or even the chianti - there is always the Bakewell Tart to keep riders fuelled.

We made the journey on a glorious, hot and sticky Sunday - approaching Bakewell the traffic build up was noticeable and the car parks were bursting. L'Eroica is being held on the Bakewell show ground, right in the town centre, it's a free event and there's plenty for non-cyclists to enjoy as well. It's a much bigger affair than I imagined, rows of tents and displays selling all manner of vintage cycling accessories, old bikes, bits of old bikes, clothes, books - you name it. There is a myriad of food outlets, not the usual burger-bar variety though, these are considered street food stalls - everything from French Crepes through to houmous wraps. There's a Double decker bus converted into a Pimms Bar - there is a real ale beer tent, a stage with bands playing and the constant commentary as riders who have taken part in one of the three courses available complete their journey's and arrive back. There's a man dressed as a baker on an old delivery bike. There's someone in a vintage policeman's uniform, complete with flowing cape and helmet (must be boiling in this weather), there's someone who completed the course on a Raleigh Chopper - mostly though it's people with a love of old, steel bikes who have gone to the trouble of sourcing period clothing, shoes and various apparel to complete the 'look' - even the facial hair has received appropriate attention and there's a tent to get your moustache suitably trimmed and waxed.

There are cyclists from all over the world - a solid contingent from Italy of course, plus a rider from Berlin who has cycled 870 miles on a 1960s Mercier vintage bike, camping along the way, to get here. We hear of riders from Brazil, Australia and there are plenty of Americans too. It really is a fantastic, well organised showcase. The weather, of course, helped to ensure its success.

Let's hope it happens again - I almost came away with a 1960s Bianchi, then there was the 1970s Colnago - Vintage could be the new cool.

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