AN ACCOUNTANT and a farmer have told how they managed to cycle along the famous Tour de France route and beat pro-cyclists into Paris by a day.
Admittedly, they also set off the day before everyone else, so their claim to the yellow jersey might not be quite there just yet.
Witney accountant Martin Bate and his brother-in-law Peter Lemmey, a dairy farmer from Yeovil, completed a lifelong dream by cycling the 3,664-mile course – in just over 216 hours.
From the Grand Depart on Saturday, July 5, to the race’s conclusion on Sunday, July 27, the men took a day’s headstart on the professional cyclists on the 101th Tour.
On rest days they got to see the real tour pour into town after them, before they set off again.
On arrival in Paris on the Saturday, Mr Lemmey, who is married to Mr Bate’s sister Alison, cycled eight times around the Champs-Elysées in celebration, taking several hours.
Mr Bate, however, did not join his brother-in-law in his elaborate celebration.
The 52-year-old said: “I didn’t want to get all the way to Paris just to get knocked off my bike.
“The trip was fantastic – we rode 99 per cent of the course. The only reason we didn’t do the whole thing was because of extreme weather on a few days which meant our lives were in danger.”
The brothers-in-law said they were faced with “horrific”
weather on their very first day, cycling from Leeds to Harrogate, where the first stage of this year’s official race began.
Mr Bate, who lives with wife Jane and daughter Ellen, 12, said: “It absolutely chucked it down, the wind blew like crazy.
“But I had always said that if we went to Yorkshire and it didn’t rain it would be a miracle.”
He also said some of the rain-soaked French cobbles were particularly difficult.
At one point, he said, the two “crazy Englishmen” were interviewed by a DJ from a French radio station.
Mr Bate, who grew up in Wantage and went to Icknield Comprehensive, now King Alfred’s East Site, said: “We’ve always been keen cyclists.
“We had this idea of riding the Tour de France years ago and it never happened, so this year we just decided to go for it.
“We wanted to know if it was possible for a couple of amateurs to ride around the whole route in the same time as the professionals did.”
They also used their adventure to raise money for a good cause and have so far collected more than £700 for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.
- The pair are still collecting online – to donate go to justgiving.com/ Peter-Lemmey
- This year’s official Tour de France race was won by Italian Vincenzo Nibali in just under 90 hours.
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