We head out of Buxton along the A6 and down to the festival in Bakewell. When I say down, I mean it! The elevation difference between the two towns is 600ft, and over a 12 mile distance would make for a great ride in either direction! As we drive through the centre of Bakewell we start to see all the preparation for Sundays Grand Depart put in place; bunting, barriers, and bicycle related paraphernalia hung from any available spot. The beautiful stone buildings look fantastic and there’s a great vibe. We start to see our first groups of cyclists dressed to the nines in period regalia. Once in the festival gates, you are greeted by trade stands selling a mixture of cycling related goods and services, as well as various vintage and foodie options. Highlights for me were the Bianchi stand and the frame building courses.
Any opportunity to throw a leg over! Coppi phrased it perfectly.
We spent the Saturday having a wander around the show field, watching as hundreds of period dressed festival goers milled about, with some pushing around their pride and joy bicycles. There were some really nice cycles. Absolute dream bikes. Colnagos, Bianchis, Gios, and Condors, as well as great British and French stalwarts like Dawes, Motobecane, Holdsworth, BSA, and Peugeot. The variety was fantastic- some restored to factory fresh and some hanging on by the last tooth of their Suntour free wheels. After lunch we took some time to have a look round the bicycle jumble, with plenty of traders selling framesets, wheelsets and groupsets from all different manufacturers. Catching my eye were the Campagnolo pantograph chainsets – I now just need the Colnago to go with them! There was plenty to choose from if you are building that custom vintage dream machine.
Sunday we were up early to catch the Grand Depart. With riders leaving from 6am we didn’t want to miss too many of them. By 7am, the town was swarming with cyclists ready to ride, dressed as hardy ex tour riders, Dads Army members, land girls, 50s and 60s dresses riding drop crossbars, and more tweed than a Harris outlet. All in high spirits, they set off on the three routes, 30/50/100 miles. It was great to see so many people together all in honour of the humble bicycle. I so badly wanted to be in the peloton, but my 1974 Carlton Criterium build wasn’t complete for the trip.
After most entrants had pressed on, we took the opportunity to have a wander around Bakewell, and like Buxton, it has some great stone architecture and a very scenic river running through the middle of it (as a note: if you go to Eroica, make a point of heading to the bakery Bloomers right by the Grand Depart and get yourself a Bakewell tart and a pork pie, both are fantastic). Heading back into the show ground we, went through into the main arena to find a spot for the arrivals. Sat on hay bales, crowds cheered as they watched the pack come in, the gentleman radio announcer taking numbers and giving background on the riders as they arrived, with some completing the 100 mile 9000ft ride with barely a bead of sweat on machinery older than me. It was a real feat, they were true Eroica.
So what did I make of it all? Well, we have just booked the cottage for the festival in 2016 and my bike is now ready……………… Eroica Britannia 2016…… See you there!