My alarm rang on my iPhone, it was 5am, I climbed out of my sleeping bag and out of my tent (leaving my wife and two year old still asleep). It seemed ridiculous, bent over, applying sun cream to my legs, arms and face on this cold, fresh summer morning in Bakewell before donning my vintage cycling jersey and tight fitting shorts. Welcome to L’Eroica Britannia!
Having agreed to meet with a few riders from London, I met them at the Jamaican flag next to their tent. We caught up and made our way to the starting line where we were waved off by the enthusiastic people of Bakewell.
Ten miles in, we stopped in Tidewell for the best bacon roll I have ever tasted, it was a flat ride along the Monstral Trails and myself and Will caught up and spoke about his plans for the year ahead. After our breakfast and coffee, we were off again and into some climbs, particularly the Mam Nick – a two mile stretch that tested us and our vintage bicycles. So much so it was too much for Will’s, and his back cassette gave in and was rendered broken with no tools to fix it. He had to pull out of the ride. We were all pretty down with the prospect of leaving him to try to hitch a ride back to Bakewell but we had 12+ hours in front of us and some serious climbs. We ploughed on.
As we passed through the next stretch, we had some excellent views and more climbs, only to be greeted at the stop with the phrase, “Sorry, there is no food left” (first of my small complaints about the ride). It was over to the Rapha coffee stand for some of the best espresso I have ever tasted. Water bottle filled and on the road again.
The next hour or so (10+miles) were lost, as we missed some junctions due to poor signposting (the second of my small complaints about the ride). We had freewheeled down some of the best rolling descents I have ever been on before realising and asking a nearby farmer and his son, that we had to climb back up them all to get on track for the next stamp and stop of the ride. By this point, the guys I was with; Martin and Matt had resigned to not finishing the ride and were thinking about making the quick route back up to Bakewell. I had other ideas, I thought it better to crash on with pace and make the time back. We pushed on and managed to get lost a couple more times, as you do when there is a lack of signage on the route and you are solely dependant on sheets of A4 paper with turn by turn instructions. Difficult navigations.
We were now over halfway and had a beer and a scone at the stop in Tissington before we aimed to get back on track. On the descent that followed, I passed three very stylish riders in full vintage peugeot kit, Avoiding a dog, I took a tumble and had a go at the reckless owner who was too busy on her phone to notice me avoiding hitting her dog with my front wheel, and then a grown man (in vintage peugeot kit) came tumbling over the top of my back. We were both fine. Further down the white gravel roads we pedalled and now on the high peak trail leading us to the 78 mile stop at Cromford. Tea and Biscuits. Water, Water, Water. . .
With the end in sight, I sent a text to my wife to go to the starting line. We had some more brutal climbing still to do, but I didn’t want her to miss us coming through the finish line.
Next stretch took us through the Chatsworth Estate and once again they had run out of resources, (Pimms and Prosecco). So, it was sandwiches and potted meat for us, and more water. 10 miles to go. Mostly uphill.
All in all, it was a wonderful ride, festival and I met some great people. The guys I rode with were great throughout the ride and we all managed to keep each other going at the tough moments. Would I do it again? Definitely. Just need to sort out the signage and the food stops.