Top former cyclist will ride in Scottish homeland for first time in decades for charity event

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Philippa York now lives in Dorset.

One of Britain’s top former cyclists is returning to Scotland to cycle in her homeland for the first time in 20 years.

Philippa York, who as Robert Millar became the first Brit to win a major classification in the Tour de France in 1984, will return to cycle around Scotland’s coast from Edinburgh to her native Glasgow as part of The Great Tour, a fundraising journey around the coast of Britain.

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It will be the first time York, 61, ventures so far north in Scotland, and one of the few visits she makes a year to the country from her home in Dorset.

Philippa York in 2018.Philippa York in 2018.
Philippa York in 2018.

She will leave with the rest of the Great Tour cyclists from Edinburgh on July 20, and arrive in Ayr on August 4.

The 1,750km route will take in Aberdeen, Inverness, Wick, Tongue, Ullapool, Mallaig and Oban on its route, with the group cycling between 80 and 140 kilometres a day.

York said the event is not competitive, and anyone is welcome to join the cyclists, who will be riding at around 20km per day.

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The Great Tour, which has run twice before in 2010 and 2015, aims to raise money for charities, many of them health-related.

The full 6,700km route around Britain takes 64 days, and has only been completed by a handful of people.

York aims to raise £5,000 through her portion of the challenge for Julia’s House, a children’s hospice in her local area of Dorset and Wiltshire.

She has invited cyclists and local cycle clubs in Edinburgh and along the route to join her for a section or to turn out to support the cyclists.

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“It’s not in any way a competition, anyone who wants to can come along and ride,” she said.

York said she has previously admired the work done by Julia’s House.

“I went along to see what they do, and how they help children and adults with what they call life-limiting illnesses, and they do palliative care as well,” she said.

“Obviously with Covid they haven’t got their normal fundraising stuff this year so I thought I would help them out.”

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The former champion is no longer in training, but said the cycle itself will not present too much difficulty.

Instead the Scottish weather may prove more of a challenge, as she has ‘gone soft’ in years of living in Europe and the south of England.

“Nobody’s made any promises yet about the weather,” she joked.

York first competed in the Tour de France as Robert Millar in 1983. The following year she won the ‘King of the Mountains’ polka dot jersey and finished fourth overall.

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It was the first time a British rider had won a major title in the Tour, and she retained the best British record in the race for 25 years until Bradley Wiggins placed third in 2009.

An Equality Ambassador for Scottish Cycling, York continues to campaign for acceptance and inclusion within the sport.

“It’s about getting people who feel marginalised through the door and involved in cycling,” she said.

“It’s one of those things, often gay people don’t really do sport because they don’t feel encouraged. Now people talk about it, and it’s slowly getting better, and by promoting it it gets normalised. Society has moved on a whole lot and that trickles down.

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“You can go cycling and it doesn’t have to be competitive, you can go for the social side of it, the travelling and the health benefits. The Great Tour is more about the health benefits.

“When you go cycling you tend to let go of all the troubles and the issues that you’ve got going on... you just bumble along and look at the countryside.”