EROICA BRITANNIA UNREADY? EVE OF RIDE TIPS FOR THE UNDER-PREPARED
How to appear truly spiffing at the Eroica Britannia. Hero, handsome face, handsome machine, person of steel? None of these? Steve Dyster offers stratagems …. too late for all those long-term considerations, but …. experience and a bit of spinning can still overcome most things.
One This is genuine. Fairly obvious, but do not lose your route/brevet card. You get this stamped and it is proof that you have done it, that you are a true Eroican. I’d like to thank Gordon from the Isle of Man for handing mine to me as I crossed the finish line. Gordon and I had kept each other company between the start and Ilam Hall, where breakfast was served on the 2017 classic route. If I had got to the check in and found I had lost it, I’d not have gone back to search. Very pleased I had been polite …. because there may be banter …
Two Refrain from responding to hurtful banter. I admit to not having the most beautiful Eroica bike. The old Carlton Clubman needs a respray and was clean rather than spit and polish ship shape and Bristol fashion sparkling. Even so, I felt that it was a little unnecessary to refer to my comfy old B17 as “something that might be put on a horse.” Rather beyond the pale, I thought. I bit my tongue and did not point out to the fellow riding a truly beautiful sporting machine that at least my bike was going a hundred miles rather than cutting things short. I am pleased I resisted. After all it is not the distance that counts ….. honest, just do not mention it - your number says it all. Of course, in reality, everyone can set their own challenge, or none: distance does not matter, it is the ride that counts, be it yours or theirs.
Three The 2018 route is different to the 2017 route, but the hundred will still be a tough ride. Try to enjoy it and not just enjoy finishing it. The scenery is magnificent and there are some magnificent bikes on the road. There are no prizes for getting back first. Ride your ride and not someone else’s.
Four Drink, drink and drink. 2018 promises temperatures almost half of what they were in 2017 and less sun. Perfect riding, some would say. But do refill your bidons whenever you can - with water. There were times when I felt like turning to something stronger, but I didn’t. “Ice Cold in Alex” is the spirit. John Mills, very heroic. At least for the longer rides.
Five Admire those true heroes who manage every hill without the old twenty-four inch gear. Do not worry about the gearing, but you may want to drop it into conversation later. It is too late to change it on the eve. After the ride I looked at mine and found that I had a fifty-three and a thirty-nine on my double chain-ring (I genuinely had never bothered to look before). Sadly, that is not the reason I walked some parts of some hills. Mind you, slipping it into conversation with friends did no harm.
Six In 2018 the classic route goes down from Mam Nick to Edale. There’s a lovely river at the sharp bend at the bottom. Best avoided unless you really want to go paddling. Adjust your brakes en route, if necessary, bit of tinkering, but not too much, looks independent and self-reliant.
Seven The big climbs are not necessarily those that will feel the worst. Save a jelly bean or two until it is nearly done. You might even offer one to another rider.
Eight You’ll not be able to scoff enough to avoid an energy deficit. So, make the most of the feeding stations - the tucker is top - and look forward to eating and drinking and making merry - if you have the energy - back at base. Relaxed looks good, even if you have little idea where your legs have gone. You may even rediscover them.
Nine Riding the very hilly hundred does not make you a superior being in itself - any more than riding the other routes does. I pointed this out to friends and family and they all, disappointingly, agreed. However, you may see epithets like “Man of Steel” bandied about - surely Person of Steel or Cyclist of Steel. Actually, I was more of a Man (or Cyclist) of Jelly by the end - a mixture of fatigue and working through a pound weight of midget gems. Yes, I know they are gums and not jellies. True heroes are modest: let others sing your praises, even if you have to offer subtle them pointers.
Ten To appear truly heroic, save a little something for the finish. Adrenalin will probably be enough, mixed with a sense of relief, to see you speed off the trail and over the line. “Look, he’s still going fast,” yelled a couple of youngsters as I sped over the last hundred yards or so. The same may happen to you. Wave and smile stoically, as if to say, “Thank’ee indeed, young fellows, play up and play the game …” Wouldn’t do to disenchant the next generation of Eroicans, would it, now? If you can actually say it out loud, you are, indeed, a true hero.
Have a jolly day out. Pip, pip.
PUBLISHED, AT THE LAST MINUTE, JUNE 2018