Nova Eroica Britannia: True Grit on Modern Bikes

By Robbie Broughton

We all know Eroica Britannia as that glorious celebration of vintage bikes and clothing that has us nostalgically waxing lyrical about the joys of steel and merino wool. But they have just announced the inaugural Nova Eroica Britannia event which features many of the gravel paths that we’ve come to love and enjoy as well as some great climbs and descents in the Derbyshire hills. It’s named ‘nova’ because, shock horror, it’s ridden on modern bikes.


Gravel riding has enjoyed something of a resurgence in recent years. The Strade Bianche on which the original L’Eroica is ridden has, since 2007, become a major professional event with many a modern rider embracing the challenge of racing on these ancient farm tracks that have escaped being paved over by tarmac. It’s rapidly become something of a Spring Classic with the likes of Fabian Cancellara, Philippe Gilbert and Michal Kwiatkowski among its victors.

In fact us roadies have shown such a love for going off-road that a whole raft of gravel events have been spawned. La Resistance which sets off from the shores of Lake Annecy every September to tackle some of the high Alpine tracks has heretofore diehard road cyclists swapping their skinny tyres for treaded 28 mm chunks of rubber. The old man of the gravel scene remains the Dirty Kanza in the US which is now so well established that it features a whole weekend’s worth of activities in addition to the ride itself: a ‘gravel expo’, no less.

Meanwhile this year’s Tour de France continues the trend when the peloton will have to tackle the partially graveled Plateau des Gileres as part of the 159km stage to Le Grand Bornand. It seems that we’re all harking after a piece of true grit.

The Eroica Nova organizers explain that their vintage ride “was never about recreating the past. Instead it was to inspire people to cycle on routes that had been typically reserved for agricultural transport in preceding decades.” It was later that the classic pre 1987 bike rule was introduced “which encouraged the beauty of fatigue and the thrill of the conquest.”

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As well as grinding your way over numerous gravel sections, Nova Eroica Britannia gives you the opportunity to test you and your modern bike on some of the region’s toughest climbs: Winnat’s Pass, The Dale, Sir William Hill, Bakewell Forest, Beeley Moor and High Peak Junction. There are four timed sections scattered throughout the route with prizes for 1st, 2nd and 3rd on each one.

The route is a 86 miles in total, but that’s still a tough challenge, even on a modern bike. There are over 2,000m of climbing meaning that it’ll take you between 6 to 8 hours to complete it. Because of the rough terrain you should have at least 28mm thick tyres.

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It all takes place on Saturday 16th June and you will also have access to the Eroica Britannia site for the whole weekend. The tough guys will be swapping their carbon for steel, and lycra for merino, the following day when the Classic event takes place. Looks like a great challenge and another glorious Eroica ride.

More details and tickets here.