The Britannia Times
The atmosphere was great; convivial, eclectic.Published on 7th. April 2017
Tom Cary is the cycling correspondent at the Telegraph and we were incredibly lucky when the stars aligned in a beautiful serendipitous fashion which meant Tom and his family were able to dip in and out of our third year, most handsomely, in-between covering the 2016 Aviva Women's Tour.
As we build up to June and our fourth Eroica Britannia - we're sharing Ride Day and Festival experiences from some of the press and famous faces who head to us for the weekend. We love this commentary from Tom - despite a hectic schedule from Tom’s side, it is a great insight into the simple joys of Festival life and camping with the family, making new friends and creating some top memories! Thanks to Tom & Sarah, Edward, Alfred and little Martha for sharing this with us and we are looking forward to seeing you again this year at our new Festival home - Friden Grange.
Tom Cary at Eroica Britannia
I hadn’t really intended to go to last year’s Eroica Britannia. Truth be told, I was only in the Peak District to cover the 2016 Aviva Women’s Tour, in which Lizzie Armitstead – Great Britain’s great hope for the Olympic road race in Rio de Janeiro a couple of months later – was riding. Brilliantly, however, Friday’s third stage of that race, from Ashbourne to Chesterfield, happened to pass very close to Bakewell, the venue for last year’s event. And even more brilliantly, at the 11th hour I was offered the chance to come and experience the festival for myself, along with my wife and three children.
"I had heard about Eroica Britannia before, of course; the costumes, the vintage gear, the handlebar moustaches and moustache handlebars. But I had never had the chance to sample its delights as June tends to be just about the busiest time of the year for a cycling correspondent (the build-up to the Tour de France being almost as stressful as the Tour itself)"
This time, I spied an opportunity to mix work with pleasure and was determined not to miss out. And what a pleasure it turned out to be. Camping is not everybody’s cup of tea. Camping in the rain with three kids under the age of seven (one of them a one-year-old) even less so. But I don’t hold with that. There is no such thing as the wrong weather, only the wrong equipment. Or at least that’s what I was always taught. Provided you have a waterproof tent and a decent high-tog sleeping bag, you can’t go wrong. In fact, I would go so far as to say the sound of rain bouncing off the roof of your tent while you are warm and cosy inside, enjoying a late night hot chocolate with the kids by torch-light, is just about as good as it gets. So I legged it to Bakewell after watching Lizzie A take a strong grip of the Women’s Tour on the Friday (winning a four-up sprint into Chesterfield) and there met up with my wife, who was looking a little frazzled having driven all the way up from London on her own with the kids after school.
"Her mood improved markedly when she spied Patrick Grant, of Great British Sewing Bee fame, setting up his tent near to ours (apparently he lives up to Eroica Britannia's claim to be ‘the most handsome’ cycling festival going), and still further when we went off to collect our festival wristbands and wandered around the vintage stalls and food pop-ups, enjoying a late night wood-fired pizza before walking back to the campsite where the atmosphere was great; convivial, eclectic."
Our pitch was right next to a couple from Liverpool whose son, Michael, had one of those giant bubble wands, making him a firm favourite with my children. We ended up sharing most of our meals with them. Saturday saw us duck out of the festival for much of the day – again so that I could watch the women’s peloton pass by – before we returned for a Q&A with Chris Boardman and David Millar and late night G&Ts.
Sunday was both the highlight and the lowlight of the weekend. Watching everyone amass in the centre of Bakewell in their vintage togs and ‘pre-1987 steel steeds’, surrounded by all the bunting and themed displays in the shop windows, was brilliant. The disappointment etched on to my two boys’ faces, however, when they realised they would not actually be riding (I hadn’t entered us into The Ride, as I knew I was going to be dashing off again to watch the conclusion to the Women’s Tour) was enough for me to promise that we would be back.