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Colin Lewis, looked back – and forward to his legacy.

Mid Devon Cycling club got together to celebrate the contribution that Colin Lewis made to the Mid Devon CC and looked back – and forward to his legacy. We presented the local cycling cafe 360 in Bovey Tracy where Colin was a regular with a framed Milk Race leaders jersey which his family kindly donated,

Lewis represented Great Britain in the Tour de l’Avenir and the world championships in San Sebastian. He achieved a commendable 25th position, emerging as the top British rider, in the individual road race during the 1964 Summer Olympics. Following his successful stint in France, he received lucrative offers to join AC Boulogne-Billancourt in Paris, which often served as a stepping stone to professional teams, particularly Peugeot, or to ride for a smaller British team, Mackeson-Condor. Mackeson-Condor, sponsored by a brewing company and a London bicycle shop, enticed Lewis to turn pro for a weekly wage of £4. It is worth noting that the average weekly pay in Britain at that time was approximately £25.

In 1967, Lewis completed the arduous Tour de France, securing the 84th position, while also clinching the national road championship. His exceptional performance led to Mackeson-Condor doubling his pay. The following year, in 1968, Lewis achieved an impressive feat by winning the road championship once again, becoming the sole rider to achieve consecutive victories. Subsequently, he joined another team called Holdsworth-Campagnolo in 1969 and remained with them until his retirement from professional racing in 1975.

During the 1967 Tour de France, Lewis found himself riding alongside Tom Simpson, with

whom he shared a room. Tragically, Simpson lost his life while climbing Mont Ventoux. Lewis vividly recalled the distressing incident, stating, “On the climb, I heard that Tom had fallen off about a kilometer from the summit, then I witnessed a commotion and saw him lying on the ground. I urgently called out to Alex, the team manager, asking ‘What’s happening?’ However, he instructed me to continue and assured me that everything was under control. I expected Tom to catch up with me during the descent, and we would collaborate as usual. After completing the stage and retiring to bed, I was feeling quite unwell when Barry Hoban entered my room and delivered the devastating news: ‘Tom’s dead.’ I was utterly incredulous, as he had seemed so light-hearted before the race began.”

According to Lewis, participating in the Tour taught him a valuable lesson about enduring prolonged suffering. He believed that this ability to persevere distinguished British and Continental professionals during that era. Lewis remained the last Welshman to compete in the Tour de France until Geraint Thomas broke the streak in 2007. Reflecting on the British professional racing scene, Lewis commented that while it was commendable, there were insufficient challenging races and an excess of what he called “chasing round straw bales all the time,” referring to races held on straight roads, often along seafronts.

Lewis also expressed his belief that the potential for development existed through sponsorships from companies like Yellow Pages, V&G Insurance, and Redifusion, although these ventures were frequently short-lived, leaving them in a perpetual cycle of seeking new sponsors. Throughout his career, Lewis achieved an impressive total of 250 victories, including 38 professional wins, such as the prestigious Golden Wheel Trophy and the Linz am Rhine race.

Also earlier this year, a number of club members paid a heartfelt homage by ascending Mont Ventoux, demonstrating their deep admiration for Tommy Simpson and coilin.

We’d also like to acknowledge the permission to use John Pierce’s pictures of Colin racing.  On the evening we showed a short film produced 10 years ago by Carrie Hill and you get a really flavour of who Colin was and his love of cycling. It’s now free to view on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O8h7kigZF-A

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