Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Eroica Britannia 2017 - done!

Ready for action!
We're back from a suberb weekend at the Eroica Britannia festival, held at Frinden Grange in Derbyshire's Peak District.

And what a weekend it was - the weather was unbelievable - someone said hotter than Thailand? - whatever, it was uncommonly hot. Gary and I had decided it was fitting for such an event to cycle there, on our old bikes, and dressed accordingly. This seemed a reasonable idea - around 45 miles in good weather with no rush to get there and the promise of a country pub stop (or two) along the way. We set off from Gary's heading to Burton on Trent, after eight miles or so Gary's bike developed a mechanical problem which clearly could not be resolved roadside. International rescue were called - Thunderbird 2 with the bike pod was duly despatched to make the pick-up (thanks Kate).

Fortunately Mike Spratt who built our bikes was attending Eroica too - he would be able to fix the problem once we got the bike to him. So with Gary travelling with his bike via Thunderbird 2 - I decided to stick to the plan and continued on my own - this would be a good test for the Garmin Edge Touring device that I'm hoping will help us navigate through France later in the year.

Around Ashbourne
I rode steadily through Burton centre and then out to Rolleston on Dove, from there I turned onto a quiet lane which was more or less traffic free until just south of Ashbourne. The route was good although there were plenty of sharp climbs to test the legs. At Ashbourne I met with a gradient that was impossible on the old bike - I had to walk for a hundred yards or so. Then I hooked up with the Tissington Trail to take me within 5 miles of the final destination. The Garmin did a great job - except the last two miles I'd put into the route were along a track that was totally unsuitable for cycling - pretty much a hikers footpath across fields - I pushed the bike until I reached the next road.

Chris Boardman
Oooh Arrrr - my next bike maybe?
By the time I got there Gary had managed to get his bike into hospital and repairs were being carried out (Thanks Mike! We decided to spend the evening at the Eroica site - there was sunshine, music, food, pop-up pubs and gin and cocktail bars - all with an authentic vintage/retro atmosphere. Then there's the 150 or so 'shops' - offering everything from Maserati sports cars to vintage clothing and bike parts and handmade arts and crafts. There really was something for everyone.

On Saturday, I took my bike out for a short spin round the lanes before breakfast - just to keep my 'every day is a bike day' new year resolution going. Afterwards we all got changed into our daytime costumes! - If you're going to attend an event like this, it's better to go the whole hog - get dressed up! - Gary and I had opted for fairly simple 'farm-worker' type outfits - I had a bowler hat, waistcoat, grandad shirt, puttees and boots. He had similar but with a flat cap and no puttees! The ladies were dressed up too, polka dots and floral patterns.

We had a laugh with these costumes - but noone gives you a second glance on site - everyone else (or most) have done something similar. The problem was the weather was so hot - dressed in thick waistcoats and heavy cotton workshirts we were soon soaked in sweat - we were thankful for the beer tent and a shady spot! We wandered round the shops, made a few purchases, saw Chris Boardman and Ned Boulting and then went back to the shady spot!

We had a break for a couple of hours in the afternoon - and then got changed into our evening wear - Gary in a dinner suit, Union Jack dicky-bow with two-tone shoes and spats - me in a straw boater and striped blazer. We spent the evening watching 1980s popsters ABC - they had more hit tunes than I remembered!

On Sunday we all met back on site for the Eroica ride - 4500 cyclists on all manner of machines setting off for either 25, 55 or 100 miles along the tracks, trails and roads of the Peak District. There were people dressed in early twentieth century bathing costumes, there was a man riding a 'stop me and buy one' ice cream bike - there were tandems with midwives, there were onion sellers, 1950s policemen, a man on a penny farthing, someone on a Chopper, a man dressed as chimney sweep riding a Raleigh bike from 1916 - whatever you could think of it was there! - the mood was fun and laughter all the way.

A couple of old scrubbers!
As we queued for the start ex-professional racer David Millar came skidding past on his old bike - Gary chased after him and managed to get a selfie. Finally we were off, in a huddle of bikes and clouds of dust from the bone-dry tracks. The route was well marshalled and there was never a danger of getting lost - it was easier riding than I'd anticipated, just the heat being the main obstacle - some of the hills were a little testing but nothing as steep as the one I'd got stuck on around Ashbourne. Some of the off-road trails were tricky and very rocky - easier to walk on those stretches. Soon we were stopping for lunch - a quintessentially English village with a lovely pub and a field at the side offering free local beer and a lunchbox for all riders. No sign of any energy gels here - Cheese and Pickle cobs, Sausage Rolls and Bakewell pudding!! - perfect! - The whole thing had the feel of a village fete from 1954.

Lunchstop - the village of Moneyash
The last section before arriving back was fairly flat and we picked up some speed in places - soon we were back at the site with the commentator announcing our arrival and a Hurricane fighter plane flying overhead. We picked up a free beer for finishing and settled down to watch other riders arriving back - while desparately trying to find a spot out of the blazing sun.

And that's Eroica in a nutshell. It’s a far cry from your average sportive - completing the course in a record time is not an option: enjoying the sensation of having cycled into a time machine alongside like-minded riders is the name of the game. So often cycling events seem to ostracise children and spouses, but not here, everyones welcome and all can enjoy the fun.

Essential refuelling

Every rider gets a lunchbox

Mike Spratt - Vintage Bike Builder extrordinaire!
Phil looking retro!

About to embark on the ride

Gary with David Millar

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