RAF cyclist from Hitchin tests Tour de France route

Flight Lieutenant Luke Bonnett, 28, was one of a 70-strong team that pedalled the two day route

Flight Lieutenant Luke Bonnett, 28, was one of a 70-strong team that pedalled the two day route - Credit: Sgt Paul Morrison Army Photographer

As cycling fever grips Yorkshire in advance of Le Grand Depart of the Tour de France today (Saturday), a Royal Air Force cyclist from Hitchin has been cycling the 390-kilometre route.

Flight Lieutenant Luke Bonnett was one of a 70-strong Armed Forces who have pedalled the two-day route from historic Harewood House on the outskirts of Leeds to the centre of Sheffield.

Exercise ‘Maillot Jaune’ – the French translation of ‘Yellow Jersey’ – is one of a series of test exercises being run in preparation for the world-famous cycling race.

The 28-year-old joined the RAF six years ago and is a structures desk officer, Tornado at RAF Marham in King’s Lynn, Norfolk.

He is the road secretary of the Royal Air Force Cycling Association.

The former student of The John Henry Newman School in Stevenage said: “From when I was about six or seven years old, I always played competitive sport and I started off playing rugby for many years. Since I’ve got a little bit older I’ve moved into cycling for the last two or three years – first because I enjoyed it and the challenge of cycling a long distance. But then, when I was encouraged by friends to do so – getting involved in the racing – it’s one of the most exhilarating things, though sometimes it can be dangerous.”

The route weaves its way past some of the most beautiful landscape, historic places and industrial heritage in the region.

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The first day saw Luke cycle the 190 kilometres (118 miles) through Skipton and the Yorkshire Dales past Aysgarth Falls and climbing the famous Buttertubs – an iconic 250m high ascent expected to challenge the Tour de France riders.

“The Tour de France is the absolute pinnacle of cycle racing in the world. So to have an opportunity to be able to do the exact same route as the professional riders do in the Grand Depart is absolutely a once in a lifetime opportunity, particularly for someone in the UK,” said Luke.

This year the Tour de France returns to the UK for three stages It will be the first time the Tour has visited the north of England, having previously only made visits to the south coast and the capital. The first two stages are in Yorkshire and the final UK stage of 159 kilometres (99 miles) is from Cambridge to London on Monday.