We’ve reunited cycling Covid Crusader Jacob with Big Issue vendor Stevie

Jacob Hill-Gowing raised £16,500 for Big Issue vendors by cycling the distance of the Tour de France on an exercise bike in his flat. It was all because he missed vendor Stevie Taylor so The Big Issue has put them back in touch

Big Issue readers have gone above and beyond to support vendors during the Covid-19 crisis – but few have gone further than Jacob Hill-Gowing.

His Le Tour de Flat challenge saw him cycle the 2,200-mile distance of the Tour de France on an exercise bike previously used as a clothes horse in his one-bed London flat. Jacob has raised more than £16,500 for The Big Issue Foundation, our charitable arm, in an effort to support vendors through these difficult times while they are unable to sell the magazine on the streets.

It’s an incredible achievement and the challenge was inspired by one vendor in particular – Jacob missed chatting to Stevie Taylor, who sells the magazine outside Pret on Old Street, London, near to where the Covid Crusader works as an art director.

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“Stevie is a massive part of my day,” Jacob Hill-Gowing tells The Big issue. “I see him four of five times a day when I nip out of the office to get stuff so it’s been a bit weird not seeing him every day and having a bit of banter with him. I’m definitely missing him and I’m sure he’s missing all of his customers.”

The pair hadn’t spoken since lockdown consigned them both to their homes and, despite plenty of coverage, Le Tour de Flat challenge had passed Stevie by. So The Big Issue has put the two back in touch – and Stevie, 47, told us that it’s already making a difference.

“It’s a very pleasant surprise,” he said. “Of all the people to do a challenge like this, I never thought Jake would be the one to do it. But I’m proud of him. So it’s great that he has pulled something positive out of this lockdown.

“It’s been refreshing to have someone different to chat to and it’s certainly helped break up the monotony of the lockdown.”

Jacob’s fundraiser will continue running until May 22, the challenge’s original finishing date. You can donate here.

For more on the Le Tour de Flat challenge, and a whole lot more, buy this week’s Big Issue magazine.

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