Thursday, 2 July 2015

Eroica Festival - Part 4 - the last day

Sunday morning and the final day of the festival looms, the biggest challenge for me is the 55 mile Derbyshire ride on my old race bike. I'd lowered the gears a bit but am still a bit apprehensive.

Might the late night singing along with Pat's guitar have been too much? Along with Gav, Elizabeth, Grant, Christine and Maggie I'd had a great time listening to Pat's own songs and then singing along to those we knew but arriving back at the B&B at midnight I started to question my wisdom.

We were up early for breakfast which for Maggie included the addition of a large flat mushroom with grilled haloumi - Frank and Wendy excelled once again. As I prepared my bike Wendy was getting ready for the 30 mile ride after a friend pulled out the previous day and offered her their place. Wendy had never ridden 30 miles before and here she was taking the challenge on a 3 speed vintage bike dressed in land-girl dungarees. Later on we heard that she had completed the ride although she was somewhat tired so very well done indeed.

After breakfast I grabbed the bike and with number pinned to my newly acquired vintage-style wool jersey headed for the start in Bakewell.

Me and bike ready for the off....
From Great Longstone it is mostly downhill so I'd decided to ride the few miles to the start as a gentle warm up and although a little cool the weather was lovely. Just past Hassop Station I came across a gentleman (a term that seems particularly appropriate on this day) who having started earlier had a flat tyre just a mile into his ride. He'd changed the tube but was struggling with a mini-pump so I stopped and my 30 year old frame pump so had him back on the road. Half a mile later a large group climbed the hill out of town as I rolled down and among them I spotted an old friend, Simon Burney, who I'd not managed to find all through the weekend.

Down at the start things were quite busy and along with a mixed group of English and Italian riders of all ages (but mostly at the higher end of the scale) I was waved off with cheering crowds and an atmosphere rarely seen at any bike event. We rolled through town and over the bridge and nobody was in a rush. This was not only going to the the most handsome ride but one of the most civilised also. The stronger riders took the wind and sown cruised over Hassop and onto the Monsall Trail. The newly opened tunnels were both impressive and a little cool.
Along the trail I chatted to a fellow rider who turned out to live in Hebden Bridge just over the border from us. First stop, with toilets, came at Miller's Dale just before the first significant climb of the day and many were filling bottles - that reminded me to start drinking a little.
Soon the mixture of roads and trails brought us to the 20 mile point at Harrington where there was plenty of food and drink. As I'd had such a great breakfast I didn't need to eat so had my card stamped added a little water to my bottle and headed out again.

Out on the trails I met up with Pat Carr, fully recovered from his previous night's singing and already half way round the 100 mile route, we had a nice ride and a chat for a few miles and then took our separate routes.

After one of the prettier paths alongside the road we came back to the road and I met another rider stuck at the roadside, his chain completely jammed between the chainring and frame - the mechanics at Harrington had used a lever to unjam it previously but he had no sort of lever and neither did I. He'd been struggling with it for a while and had pretty much given up. Fortunately although I didn't have a lever I did have a plastic bag and some experience in such matters and after a few minutes had him back on the road.

Eroica was that kind of event, if someone looked like they needed help people would stop and offer it as well as they were able. This was the friendliest large bike event I'd ever seen.

After the steep, sometimes loose, mainly damp and sometimes muddy descent of Sheep's Pastures to Cromford at 37 miles the food and drink on offer were very welcome and set me up for the next leg of the ride.

The last stop couldn't come too soon and Chatsworth House along with the ice cream, food and drink was magnificent and a short ride across the grass onto the road for one final big climb before the drop down to Bakewell. Having ridden almost 60 miles since breakfast the climb was tough, almost too much for me, and at the top I had a brief stop to stretch cramping legs.

The last stretch was down the hill to Bakewell. Along with the descent from Beeley Moor which I had first ridden almost exactly 40 years ago on my first club run this final descent was great fun - and although I was passing riders all the way down I still maintain that I was exercising the caution the organisers had advised! 

So there we have it:

Eroica Britannia - truly the most handsome cycling festival, and the friendliest, with superb routes and of course with Shay the Poet!

Roll on next year!

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