Peak District bike festival moves up a gear

Three years in, the Eroica Britannia bike ride and festival has firmly established itself on the Peak District calendar.

Thursday, 16th June 2016, 8:00 am

And this year’s celebration of cycling and vintage lifestyle will be the biggest yet.

More than 4,500 riders will be setting off from Bakewell this weekend on pre-1987 bikes and dressed in appropriately retro outfits, completing routes of 30, 55 or 100 miles which take in some of the most picturesque scenery in the Peaks, pausing for ‘feast stops’ in villages along the way.

On the town’s showground, the three-day family festival has increased substantially in size, with live music, 150 traders selling cycling paraphernalia, clothes and homewares, and a broader focus on food – a new area called Graze will offer more than 40 stalls, including street food outlets and pop-up bars.

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Gian Bohan, of Nonna’s on Ecclesall Road, who first brought the event to the Peaks from Italy in 2014 along with a group of fellow businessmen, said it was ‘shaping up to be an amazing weekend’.

“We’re in year three now, so obviously we’re a bit more established and we want to keep adding to the product and refreshing it as we go along,” he said.

The Eroica brand has spread around the world – rides take place in California, Uruguay, South Africa and Japan, as well as the original Italian event, L’Eroica, which dates back 45 years and translates as ‘the heroic’.

But Gian added: “We’ve built a festival around our ride. A lot of the other global ones are more the ride with a ‘gathering’ around it. Whereas we’re the ones in the global portfolio who are doing a festival on the scale it is.

“We’re literally leading the way. They’re all looking how we’re doing it, we’re very proud of that fact.”

The event’s appeal is broad. Nearly 1,000 of the cyclists are women and 400 have signed up to the family ride.

“The unique thing about Eroica is it’s not all about flying through the countryside as fast as you can on a bike. It’s about all the other attractions as well. That’s really captured a much wider audience,” said Gian.

Ticket prices have increased this year, though – advance three-day passes for the festival were doubled to £20. On-the-day tickets are £15. Gian said this still represented ‘excellent value’.

“To be able to put things on you need funds to do them.”

The activities start tomorrow (Friday), when a ‘swing dance night’ with a big band is planned. Sunday – the day of the big bike ride – will have a ‘last night of the proms’ theme once the riders have returned.

“We’re still a small team and our lives are on hold for two weeks to put the event on,” said Gian. “Preparation is key! You’re always learning – we’ll learn more from this year again.”

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