1,500 ‘heroes’ rush for Peak retro cycle ride

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If anticipation is building for the Tour de France passing through the Sheffield region this summer, another international cycling event is not too far behind.

Some 1,500 cyclists, many from across the world, have already signed up for another big event, L’Eroica Britannica, in the Peak District on Sunday, June 22.

‘The Hero’ started in 1997 on the ancient roads of Tuscany, participants riding bikes manufactured before 1987, and instead of lycra, wearing classic merino wool jerseys, leather shoes, metal bidons and, in some cases, waxed moustaches.

Now the event is coming to the Peak District, on parts of the Monsal and Tissington Trails, passing landmarks such as Chatsworth House and through villages such as Eyam, Tideswell and Castleton. Routes of 30, 50 and 100 miles are being offered.

Rather than a race, L’Eroica is celebration of vintage bikes and costumes, food and drink and heritage and landscape.

In a twist on the Italian tradition, riders will be given a bottle of Thornbridge beer, Hartington cheese and a Bakewell pudding.

A model of the proposed Man of Steel - the full scale version is earmarked for a spot overlooking the M1 near Meadowhall - will be at the finishing line to highlight the local industrial heritage. Its sculptor, Steve Mehdi, is designing medals for cyclists.

The cycling will be the culmination of a weekend festival, showcasing the region - its churches, well dressings, food and drink and other traditions. About 20,000 visitors are expected in what will be a boost to the local economy.

“The villages are key to the experience that the riders will get,” said one of the organisers, Gian Bohan, co-owner of Nonna’s restaurant and bar in Ecclesall Road. “We want them to embrace the occasion.”

The maximum entry is 2,000, with 1,500 cyclists already signed up.

“The interest has been incredible, from (tourism agency) Visit England and the Peak District National Park to the Bakewell Pudding shop,” said Gian, who is in Nonna’s cycling club, La Squadra. “About 15% of riders are from abroad, such as from Singapore, South Africa and America, and with big contingents from Italy and Germany.”

Activities to promote cycling will be organised as part of the weekend.

Cyclists pay a £70 fee, which includes free camping.

L’Eroica was held outside Italy for the first time last year, at Mount Fuji in Japan. When it is all over this year, there is the Tour de France to look forward to in the Peak District and Sheffield, on July 6.