On the evening of September 4th 1982, I travelled from Chesterfield to Goodwood with three of my club mates to watch the Men’s Professional Road Race championships. Gary was the only one of us with a car at that time so he offered to drive us all the way to West Sussex. We duly headed off into the night armed with little more than a map and a torch. The adventure had begun...
Eroica Britannia is a Revival for cyclists
Map reading wasn't easy within the confines of the MK1 Fiesta whose 950cc engine was worked hard over the undulations of the South Downs but we persevered and finally picked up signage for Goodwood. A sense of relief was felt. Suddenly we were on the course, barriers and hoardings welcoming us to this iconic venue. It was some ungodly hour of the morning, but we'd made it!
The 1982 World Road Race championships was run with sunshine bathing the Goodwood circuit. The race covered 18 laps and 171 miles and excitement built lap after lap as we watched events unfold, then suddenly the bell sounded and we were into 'the final'. Time to secure a vantage point as near the finish as possible. I squeezed past fellow spectators and found myself positioned amongst hordes of Italian fans known, I would discover later, as the 'Tifosi'. A name earned from their 'feverish behaviour' and a passionate support of their beloved sport.
Cycle racing is like chess, with teamwork, strategy and cunning winning the day. On this day however pure strength came to the fore with the Italian Giuseppe Saronni producing a blistering sprint on the final ascent of Kennel Hill leaving all rivals in his wake. History had been made and Goodwood was now written into cycling folklore...
I'll never forget the roar of the Italian fans and their unbridled tears of joy as Saronni crossed the line arms aloft and I could do little but be swept up in their emotional exhibition and immediately became a fan. Something underpinned by the fact that Giuseppe's victory that day was aboard the same brand of bike I'd recently bought. A Colnago!
Fast forward 39 years and I'm back at Goodwood. Not as a spectator this time but as a participant, fortunate to have been invited to attend the 2021 Goodwood Revival that was also playing host to the Eroica Britannia cycling festival re-launch.
As if the thrill of being at the Revival and seeing [and hearing] such a wealth of beautifully preserved and restored classic motor cars wasn't enough I was going to ride my bike over some of the iconic terrain covered in the 1982 World Championships too.
For any reader thinking what on earth has a bike ride got to do with the Goodwood Revival and vintage motorsport, there may be more common ground than you'd think. Many of my cycling friends love their cars and motorbikes, are self-confessed petrol-heads and would have jumped at the chance to be here in my place.
The Eroica Britannia is a UK based spin-off of the original “L'Eroica” held in Italy since 1997. A celebration of cycling's history and tradition, not to mention the agony and ecstasy of physical challenge and embracing adventure whilst preserving the machinery of the past. This concept has been rolled out in various locations worldwide but perhaps done no better than in the UK, where the celebration of cycling and vintage machinery and the joy of pedal-power has been combined with a festival focusing on family entertainment and friendship.
The first edition of the Eroica Britannia was run in 2014 from Bakewell in Derbyshire and took in the splendour of the Peak District. Whilst the region played host for several years, challenges encountered with festival venues meant relocation was needed. No mean feat to find a new and more permanent spiritual home, but thankfully, here we are.
On my drive down to Goodwood on Sunday morning, the number of beautiful vintage motors seemed to almost equal the modern vehicles en-route. A celebration of tradition and heritage began to fill the air. Perhaps Goodwood is the perfect host for the Eroica Britannia, after all.
A taster Eroica Britannia was run at the Revival 2021 to introduce a select handful of cycling enthusiasts to the hospitality Goodwood has to offer and to whet appetites for next year's fully-fledged event, which will see thousands of riders and their families descend for a fantastic weekend celebrating their love of classic bicycles and much more...
After a brilliant parade lap around the Motor Circuit, 150 riders headed out for a gentle, if somewhat damp, 20 mile pedal around the Goodwood Estate and surrounding area, taking in some glorious views. A variety of distances will be on offer to participants in 2022. The undoubted highlight of the weekend for me though was to get to follow in the wheel tracks of the great Giuseppe and ride my vintage Colnago up Kennel Hill, albeit a tad slower than the champ!
The basic rules of the Eroica Britannia are to embrace the event’s ethos and celebrate a time gone by, much as regular visitors to the Goodwood Revival have been doing for years. Bikes used should predate 1987, which is arguably when notable leaps forward in technology and equipment started to make their presence felt.
Ideally, your compliant machine will be made from steel with all gear and brake cabling exposed, derailleur gears [if you have them] operated by levers on the down tube and traditional pedals, clips and straps used instead of their modern counterparts. Attire is equally important to the seasoned vintage bike rider, and period-correct clothing and accessories are encouraged. Attention to detail is King. Consider [imaginary] bonus points scored if your carefully curated machine, garb, and accessories are coordinated and original.
Much like the vintage motoring enthusiast, a typical Eroica Britannia participant will have deliberated long and hard over their machine and invested countless hours researching, sourcing and assembling their pride and joy. Together with fellow enthusiasts, I have found that the chase for elusive components to finish a project is as enjoyable as riding the finished article. My most recent renovation took 40 years [yes, really!] to turn from dream to reality, and I hope to be on the start line of the 2022 Eroica Britannia astride this most recent addition to my collection.
There's a great deal of satisfaction in seeing a trusty steed that for years had languished, forgotten and unloved alongside gardening tools in a shed suddenly see the light of day once more.
The Goodwood Revival has the laudable principle of 'make do and mend' as a core value, and the same exists within certain sections of the cycling community.
We live in an era where, as resources become less plentiful, there has never been a better time to dust off that trusty old bike and give it a new lease of life. Repair rather than replace is the order of the day.
Internet access has helped vintage car and bike restoration enthusiasts alike, making renovation projects easier than ever with people from around the world coming together, happy to buy and sell and share their knowledge, passion and skills to ensure old tired machinery lives again.
We have just under a year to prepare for Eroica Britannia 2022, where classic vintage bicycles from legendary British brands like Raleigh, BSA, Claud Butler, Hetchins, Dawes, and many more will rub pedals with machinery from further afield. A guaranteed spectacle for riders and festival visitors both. I, for one, can't wait and hope to see many of you there!
Photography by James Lynch.
The official Goodwood Revival Collection
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