Old fashioned bike race to roll into the Peak

L'Eroica is coming to the Peak District
L'Eroica is coming to the Peak District

It’s not only the Tour de France that will roll into the region next summer.

A few weeks before the world’s top cyclists pass through part of the Peak District into Sheffield, another internationally-recognised cycling event is set to be staged in the national park.

L’Eroica has been held every year since 1997 on the ancient roads of Tuscany. This event, though, is not so much a race as celebration of vintage bikes and costumes, food and drink and heritage and landscape. Participants in ‘The Heroic’ adhere to criteria such as riding bikes manufactured before 1987, and instead of lycra, wearing classic merino wool jerseys, leather shoes, metal bidons and waxed moustaches.

Although preparations are at an early stage, the occasion is due to come to the Peak District as part of a festival of cycling in June 2014. A formal announcement is due in the autumn, but local organisers are looking to showcase the Peak, from puddings and real ale, to cheese and sweets, to bell ringing and morris dancing.

“It will encompass the hidden places of the Peak, linking food, heritage and cycling,” said one of the organisers, Gian Bohan, co-owner of Nonna’s restaurant and bar in Ecclesall Road. “It’s a perfect marriage.”

Also steering the arrival of the event locally are three other local businessmen - Marco Mori, of holiday firm GustoCycling, Tim Hubbard of interior design company 93ft and Nick Cotton, of Digital Exchange.

They are planning to bring L’Eroica to the Peak District for at least the next five years. It has just been held outside Italy for the first time, at Mount Fuji in Japan, the most visited national park in the world. The Peak District is the second most popular.

With the support of the Peak District National Park Authority, the event is expected to attract up to 1,500 participants, some from overseas, and many tourists.

Traditionally, the race offers distances to suit all levels of riders, from 38km to a full 205km course. It is likely that the Peak route will include the Tissington and Monsal Trails, including old railway tunnels.

“It’s not any old bike race,” said Gian, who has taken part in L’Eroica in Tuscany and is part of Nonna’s cycling club, La Squadra, which has 150 members. “You will want to stop and look at the great views and try some of the local food. You won’t want to just tear through. This will be a real showcase for the area with lovely retro bikes.”

The first Peak District Cycling Festival is being held this year from September 7 to 15.