Classic bikes British style

L’Eroica started in Italy in 1997 as a period cycle race to celebrate the rich heritage of the sport. Since this time, Eroica events have spread worldwide and now take place in nine locations across the globe. This year marked the third year of Eroica Britannia and is a three day festival set in Bakewell in the Peak District National Park.

During the festival, Bakewell Showground takes a journey back in time and is awash with bunting, vintage bicycles, retro clothing and some very finely waxed moustaches! Festival-goers wander around the site visiting stalls from carefully selected vendors, some of which are selling bicycle components and clothing, and some who are showcasing products from times gone by. Condor Cycles exhibited at the show and displayed a selection of bicycles spanning their heritage dating back to 1948 — two of which included the 1950 Condor Steel and 1970 Condor Italia.

Prior to the race I contacted Glory Days cycle hire in Bakewell who set me up with a very beautiful 1986 Carlton Kermesse. Being used to riding my carbon Goomah for the past year, it became apparent all too quickly that it might be quite a tough ride!

Riders chose between three distances — 30,55 or 100 miles of beautiful countryside. I chose the 55 mile route which incorporated 40% of gravel roads to replicate the Strada Bianche and a somewhat challenging 1,500m climbing…on a very heavy bike. The difference between all other sportives that I have taken part in was the atmosphere of the ride. It was clear from the offset that this was not a race — everyone stopped at the viewpoints to take photographs, to admire other people’s bikes and to enjoy the incredible food at the stops. On offer was a hog roast, apple pies, cream scones, Aperol Spritz…much more exciting than your average gels and bananas!

I was wearing the ASSOS heritagePack which is an authentic Limited Edition team issue replica jersey set which commemorates cycling apparel history and I was pleased to see another fellow rider chose the same outfit!

The setting was also a perfect fit for the ride. Bakewell is a tiny little village full of character and charm and having the old Mavic service car leading the first riders out of the village was a great touch.

A lot of the route ran along the disused rail tracks meaning it was traffic free and relatively flat giving you time to admire the bicycles around you and soak up the atmosphere — there was even a brass band playing as we sped through the railway tunnel.

Once we had left the rail tracks, the climbing really started and I found there was a lot of pedalling and hoping for the best as I tried to navigate a very cumbersome bike along narrow gravel roads — how I didn’t get a single puncture I will never know! I was using all of my strength to apply the brakes so any kind of descent was quite challenging. Somehow every time we stopped at a feed station, or to take a photograph, we were overtaken by people on tandem bikes and penny farthings!

Everyone cheered the riders as we arrived back to the campsite and we headed off to collect our complementary “Handsome” Pale Ale and collect the final stamp on our route card.

The ride was a real triumph and was unlike any other sportive or organised ride I have taken part in before. I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone who is looking for a chance to celebrate the wonderful world of cycling.

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