17 July 2014

Velo Vintage Girl: VCG does L'Eroica Britannia 2014...

A few weeks ago I was blasting around Derbyshire on a vintage Italian road bike climbing and descending for 30 miles… certainly not your average weekend ride for me, as I took part in L’Eroica Britannia! Courtesy of Lush Handmade Cosmetics, VCG attended the inaugural British leg of the iconic event, which was transported from the rolling hills of Tuscany to the beautiful Peak District.

Founded in 1997 with just 92 riders, L’Eroica (which literally translates as ‘The Heroic’) is a vintage themed sportive, born from the love of cycling, history and literature of Italy. Its original intention was to raise awareness of the traditional ’strade bianchi’ (white gravel roads) of Tuscany and & safeguard its heritage... fast forward to 2014, it now sees 5000 cyclists subscribing to take part in what’s known as “the most handsome bike race in the world”. L’Eroica Britannia recreated the event on British soil in Bakewell with a weekend long family friendly festival, dedicated to all things vintage, lifestyle and of course cycling, culminating one of the most intense bike rides I’ve ever been on…

I headed up to Derbyshire on the Friday for the start of my "Great British Adventure" - filled with excitement for L'Eroica Britannia, I was also pondering how completely different the actual bike ride would be for me. There is no denying it - cycling 30 miles over terrain I'd never experienced before on a bike that wasn't mine had my brain ticking over like mad. I knew this wasn't going to be a gentle Sunday morning jaunt, but even through some nerves I was still eager to get on the trails and do it!

There was word on twitter that fellow cycling friends of mine would be riding Eroica Britannia, so it was brilliant to start bumping into familiar faces on the train before I'd even arrived in Bakewell! Team CTC formed by LDN Bike Kitchen's Caren, Kelly and Jenni were taking part. Of course they were looking suitably vintage and posed for a cyclestle shot before riding off to the campsite...
While they cycled off into the rolling hills, I headed to the hotel which would be my base for the next two nights (I'm not going to deny I stayed in a hotel thanks to Lush and was without bike at this point) and had a relaxing Friday evening, sorting out plans for the bike filled weekend ahead...
bicycles even infiltrate my nightwear...

Getting to know the area and why L'Eroica had chosen it was on my agenda on Saturday, so the Brooks England breakfast hosted by organiser Gian Bohan was a brilliant way to do it. Held at The Old Original Bakewell Pudding Shop, there was a chance to sample some of the local delights that would feature on the route stops, which of course included the famous Bakewell Pudding - and yes, VCG has been fully schooled on the difference between the Pudding and the Tart...
As riders in Italy get to sample food and drink on the mountainous routes featuring local cheese, meats and wines, the hilly Peak District was the perfect location to recreate the ride. With its terrain, and a classic British twist on the food, the area was a perfect match to Tuscany.

Sausage cob and a cuppa downed, I headed off with the Brooks team for a beautiful tour of Derbyshire, and then onto the Bakewell Showground for the festival. It was great to soak in the atmosphere of L'Eroica Britannia... with a chance to catch up with the Lush Ladies, drool over the pre-1987 bicycles on show, visit the stalls and film with The Cycle Show crew... there was A LOT to squeeze in!

Then came the serious business: The ride on Sunday and meeting the bicycle I'd be doing it on. As a first timer, and having never been on a road bike with gear shift levers on the down tube, I opted for the 30 mile short route... I suspected this would be enough of a challenge for me to take on...
My bike for the day was sourced by Lush from an Italian gentleman call Stefano, who gave me a speedy lesson on how to ride it, what not to do to the gears when pedalling... oh, and also pointed out the breaks on the bike were the other way round, and not to forget that. Me and my borrowed vintage steed for the day had just 20 minutes to get acquainted with one another - most certainly the fastest lesson in cycling I've ever had! 

A believer in omens, I took getting 1942 (Poppa Vélo's year of birth) as my rider number a lucky sign. With 'Vaya Con Dios' in my mind and The Loughton Brothers by my side I headed to the start line, hoping to become a Hero on the Peaks...

The short route was 25% off road, with an ascent of 2,825ft along the way... it was hot, hard and most of all fun! The Peak District was absolutely beautiful to take in on the ride  - the railway tunnels of Monsal Trail were a little slice of heaven... providing natural air conditioning on such a hot day. Refreshment and stamp stops were after 14 miles at Tideswell and then 21 miles at Eyam... the local food tasted amazing and were the fuel I needed beyond my water. The hospitality of the locals was warm, welcoming and incredibly friendly, making it apparent they were revelling in L'Eroica Britannia coming to their villages...

I've never done a bike ride like this before, and L'Eroica Britannia ranks not only one of the best cycling experiences I've ever had, but the best festival/event I've ever attended. The organisation was immaculate, and the transition from Tuscany to the Peak District worked perfectly. The ideals and values that are a huge part of L'Eroica flowed seamlessly into Britain, with those taking part holding the same passion for the event as their Italian brothers and sisters. 

I urge you, if you are thinking about doing this next year, YOU MUST! A beautiful celebration of all things vintage and cycling in the surroundings of the Peak District was bliss... I'm already looking at June 2015 in my diary and making sure I'm free should it be in the same month again. Who knows, perhaps I'll get enough training in to bump up to the 100 Mile route...

The L'Eroica Britannia feature with the The Cycle Show is up on their website - you and you can catch it right here, (anywhere in the world too - huzzah!) including footage of the festival and the Go-Pro views from my steed!


Huge thanks must go to:

4 comments:

Mary said...

Well done - it sounds like a fun ride! BTW, how did you get on with the downtube shifters?

glorydaysbikes said...

Glad you enjoyed it! Lovely pictures of #glorydaysbikes available to rent for L'Eroica Britannia or all year round - happy days in the Peak District. The most glamorous and glorious bike events - we loved it too!

Glory Days said...

Lovely pictures of #glorydaysbikes reliable retro bike rental in the Peak District for happy days out. We loved the event too - glamour and most glorious of rides!

Fashion Follows Her said...

Pretty sure all bike rides should start with a sausage sarnie!! Looks like a lovely event.