Hopes of a vintage year for Eroica cycling festival in the Peak District after revamp

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Thousands of cyclists, their families and those keen for a taste of the vintage lifestyle will be heading to the Peak District this weekend for the Eroica Britannia bike ride and festival.

But there’s been a major shake-up for the event’s fourth year - Eroica has moved from the Bakewell Showground, its venue since 2014, to the farmland surrounding Friden Grange, in the hamlet of Friden, near Hartington.

Thousands of families are expected at this year's Eroica Britannia family cycling festival at Friden Grange, six miles from its previous home of Bakewell, June 16 to 18, 2017.

Thousands of families are expected at this year's Eroica Britannia family cycling festival at Friden Grange, six miles from its previous home of Bakewell, June 16 to 18, 2017.

Relocating to the new site, seven miles from Bakewell, was a pragmatic decision, explained Gian Bohan, of Nonna’s on Ecclesall Road, who was among the group of businessmen that brought Eroica to the UK from Italy on a 10-year rolling licence.

Ten days of torrential rain left the showground sodden last year, and the event only went ahead following the deployment of 200,000 tonnes of woodchip and emergency drainage, costing £25,000.

“Because the site was next to the river it’s a bit of a flood plain and the drainage was not really up to scratch,” said Gian. “We had a great time in Bakewell but we needed to be confident we could still operate if the weather was bad.”

Friden Grange offers quick access to the High Peak Trail, and the routes of Eroica’s three cycle rides of 25, 55 and 100 miles – which tour villages in the Peak, pausing for ‘feast stops’ along the way – have changed, but still take in many of the old highlights, such as Chatsworth.

The ethos of providing ‘the world’s most handsome bike ride’ remains, too - the 4,500 participants use pre-1987 bicycles and avoid wearing modern lycra outfits.

“We’ve done some tweaks. The village of Monyash is included on the short route and we’re doing one of the food stops at the old Millers Dale railway station.”

Picnic boxes are being created for the riders, offering a flavour of Derbyshire - Bakewell pudding, homity pie and locally-produced cheese and pickle included.

Peak Ales are also offering samples along the route.

“The family ride this year is up to 400 riders - it’s really nice and safe,” said Gian.

“There’s going to be a real family festival feel.”

In addition, a ‘twilight ride’ is happening for the first time tomorrow evening (Friday). “It’ll just be a gentle ride to a local hostelry and back again.”

The festival site will feature more than 150 shops alongside gin bars, vintage market stalls and a traditional British pub - the Britannia Tavern. Once the cyclists have returned on Sunday there will be a triple flyover by a Lancaster Bomber.

There is more room for camping and motor homes, major sponsors have once again associated themselves with the event - chiefly luxury car maker Maserati - and organisers have strived to improve the line-up on the main music stage.

This year’s headliners are Sheffield pop sophisticates ABC, led by singer Martin Fry, and DJ Norman Jay MBE.

“We are always listening to feedback and always want to improve. That doesn’t always mean ‘bigger is better’; it’s more about making it good quality,” said Gian.

“ABC fit so well. There’s an obvious connection to the area and Martin and his wife are big cyclists as well. He’s going to be riding and is super excited. In fact, that was one of the clinchers for him coming here.”

The festival site opens today (Thursday) - 24 hours earlier than before - to allow campers to set up, staggering people’s arrival, and tomorrow’s activities will start sooner too.

Eroica Britannia has an economic impact of £3m.

“It’s amazing that we’re already in year four, it doesn’t seem like yesterday that we were planning year one.”

Festival day tickets cost £20 each, available on site. Children under 12 go free. Ride entry deadline has passed. A shuttle bus to the site is being laid on from Bakewell, outside The Manners pub, £3 each way. Visit www.eroicabritannia.co.uk for details.