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A Big Issue reader is cycling the distance of the Tour de France in his flat

Jake Hill-Gowing is taking on the challenge to raise funds for vendors while they are temporarily off the streets in the coronavirus crisis

Tour de Flat

An avid Big Issue reader is getting on his bike for our vendors as he cycles the distance of the Tour de France while locked down in his London studio flat.

Despite not being too active before the coronavirus crisis, 28-year-old Jake Hill-Gowing embarked on his Tour de Flat challenge on March 22, taking on the 2,200 mile distance of the world’s premier cycling race on an exercise bike that had been used as a “clothes horse” for the last three years.

Jake is targeting a total of £5,000 to support Big Issue vendors while they temporarily cannot sell the magazine on the streets. In particular, Jake will be putting in the effort to help Big Issue vendor Stevie who sells the magazine on London’s Old Street outside the building where Jake works for an ad agency.

Tour de Flat
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Jake Hill-Gowing has completed the mammoth cycling challenge even though he is not an avid cyclist

“I’ve been quite friendly with The Big Issue vendor Stevie outside the front of our office for the past three years,” he told The Big Issue.

“I was looking to receive The Big Issue digitally because I buy the magazine from him every week. But then I thought: is there anything more I can do?

“Then I remembered I’ve got this exercise bike in my flat which I’ve been using for a clothes horse for the past three years and I thought: has anyone tried a sponsored cycle in self-isolation? It was just something to do to stop me going mental.”

Jake reckons that if he is forced to stay in his flat for three months, he can complete the total distance by cycling a couple of hours per day.

He’s already raised more than £2,398 for The Big Issue Foundation, our charitable arm, and is fast closing in on halfway to his funding target. Jake’s even streaming his efforts online on gaming broadcast platform Twitch to prove to his backers that he is serious about the challenge.

So far, 11 days into his journey, the avid Big Issue supporter has cycled 72.7km (45 miles) and has a mere 2,853km (1,772 miles) to go.

It’s a sign of how devoted Jake is to completing a journey which he originally underestimated.

“I kind of said that I was going to do the distance of the Tour de France without looking it up. But when I found out how long it was I was like ‘I guess I’ve committed to this now’,” he said.

“I had the idea to livestream it too so people can keep track and potentially even join in at home. That said, it is a bit of a boring stream! It is literally just me on an exercise bike in my flat, a tiny little pokey flat in Walthamstow.”

But Jake reckons that is workout will be nothing compared to the strain that vendors like Stevie will be feeling during the current coronavirus lockdown.

“I always have a chat with him when I go to lunch and he always catches me out when I’m late for work and lets me know about it,” added Jake. “He’s become quite a good mate actually. Seeing Stevie is part of your day. His livelihood is around interacting with people and seeing people every day so I can imagine that this self-isolation has been hard for him not only financially but from a social perspective too.”

You can donate to Jake’s Tour de Flat JustGiving page here and watch him at work on Twitch here.

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