In the making for two years L’Eroica Britannia was set to show case Britain at it’s best; summer time festival meets cycling extravaganza.
Based out of Bakewell in the Peak District the event is an extension of the original L’Eroica held in Italy on the historic 200km course in Tuscany.
A special "Silver Lining" Vulpine Storm Cap was hidden in one of 750 musettes given out at event registration.
The lanes leading out of Bakewell made it easy for an amazing adventure on Sunday June 23. 1,600 vintage clad riders took on one of three distances to ride pre 1987 bikes on a hot solstice day. Dave (Vulpine Head of Sales) and I entered the 100-mile wanting to have the full experience. But when I was shown my stead, a 1980’s Raleigh Ace I did have doubts both for the bike and myself. A quick ride around the car park the day before had left me worried that my bum wouldn’t be able to handle the old school brown felt seat, not to mention pushing the 38ml tires over 2,800 meters of climbing with only 5 gears. What had I got myself in to?
After a full day of mooching the stalls at the show grounds and then sampling some of the gin gardens and the Pimms bus while listening to acts on the main stage it was an early wake up at 5am in the tent. There was no turning back though as we set off at 6am in a very British affair completed with flags and bunting lined streets.
Penny sports her Vulpine Women's Original Rain Jacket for the 6am start.
The first feed station had a queue out in to the churchyard where riders waited for bacon butty’s. 30% of the field were international and questioned if this type of food was normal. Laughing I scoffed mine and then realised no matter how sore my bum was I had to keep riding to burn that bad boy off.
Glass of fizz (at Chatsworth with a buttie!) resplendent in a Vulpine Button Jersey.
An amazing route took us over huge climbs, many walked, as their steads didn’t have enough gears for the 20% gradient or just broke. I did learn that you had to ‘feel’ where the gear was when changing on the down tube and that the rear derailleur can easily get in the spokes of the wheel or the chain can jump straight off. Constant repairs from Dave meant both our bikes, aptly named Rebecca and Roger kept going.
As the sun poured over us we rode gravel paths and tiny roads that I swore were peoples driveways. We started to develop the white strip on our matching Merino Button jerseys just like the professionals did in Tuscany. We cruised in our upright positions past huge reservoirs, through forested sections and along many old railway lines. Such hidden gems all linked together seamlessly, a tribute to the organisers.
It was fantastic to stop at the feed stations and chat to other riders, all excited about their special bike and where it had come from. Beer was served for lunch with sausage and cheese sandwiches; a local brewery had produced l’eroica Handsome beer for all.
Continuing on the rail trails I was taught how to ride down the steep 1 in 8 inclines with water boards. I was immensely proud of my new bike handling skills, as was Dave who feared I would have to walk those parts. At Ilam house the National Trust put on a cream tea for us.
Dave got on the front and as the ride went on and my confidence built on my bike; we started to drill it. He was the Freight Train and I the Cherry Tomato because I was always trying to ketchup; a joke Dave found wildly funny. It was a real wake up call on how much I rely on a quick easy gear change on the hoods. Now I had to just pedal harder as I didn’t have the range of gears, nor the skill to quickly change on the down tube and still ride at pace. We mused about how riders in the Tour must have known when the attack was coming. Now a silent click on the Di2 and they are gone.
The final feed station and place to complete the required stamps on our card was glorious Chatsworth House. We were too late for the Pimms, 1,600 units were decimated by the riders on the short course, but luckily there was still English sparkling wine and potted meat sandwiches. Dehydrated and consuming sparkling wine as if was water made for the last 10 kilometres in to Bakewell. Dave managed to push me up some of the last few bits slinging me past other riders at pace. The look on their faces was priceless.
Thrilled to be at the finish in the festival arena I got a bit nostalgic about my Rebecca.
Rebecca and I had such a great journey together. It made me think of how people long for the finish line omitting the joy that is received on the journey. The finish is always a split second where the journey can be months, days or hours. Enjoying this time makes the finish line all that much more sweeter. L’eroica is a journey to enjoy.