Road race riders honour Colin Lewis, one of cycling's all-time greats

Torbay Weekly

Nearly 130 riders, who could only have seen pictures of him in action, bowed their heads in silence before the Mid-Devon CC's Primavera Road Race in memory of Colin Lewis, club president and one of British bike racing's all-time greats.

They were honouring Lewis and his club colleague Ken Robertson, who also died just before Christmas, Lewis passing away last weekend at the age of 80.

He rode the Tour de France in 1967 and 1968, the years he became the first man to win the National RR Championships in successive years and he also rode in the 1964 Olympic Games and the 1966 Commonwealth Games.

At his peak in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Lewis enjoyed 38 pro victories and well over 200 more as an amateur.

He later ran bike shops in Torquay and Paignton, also nurturing the early careers of future pros like Jeremy Hunt, Yanto Barker and Jonathan Tiernan-Locke and inspiring many more.

Barker, 42, who grew up near Totnes and went on to found the global cycle wear brand Le Col after his own pro career, said: "So much of what I've achieved, on and off the bike, goes back to what Colin taught me.

"I remember knocking on his shop door for the first time as a nervous kid, asking for advice.  He told me what to do then, and I've just continued down that track.

"Colin could be tough - he left me out on Dartmoor on my own once at 17 - but his toughness was only in your interest.  I never experienced anything other than support from him."

Lewis shared a room with fellow Brit Tommy Simpson at the 1967 Tour, the year when Simpson died from a combination of heat exhaustion and an intake of amphetamines and alcohol.

Lewis later shared his memories of that tragedy, helping a wider audience to understand the culture of the sport in those days.

Born in a South Wales mining village, he moved to Torquay with his family in the early 1950s and, apart from time as a young racer in France, he spent most of his life in South Devon.

Lewis was still riding his bike near his home in Bovey Tracey until late last year, when illness finally intervened.