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Prisoners freed to do Tour de France

Corsica jail will let inmates cycle a stage on Monday – as team prepares to do whole race on scooters

THIS year’s 100th Tour de France promises to be an event like no other... with prisoners from a Corsica jail being allowed out for the day to cycle a stage and a team hoping to ride the whole route on scooters.

The race starts in Porto Vecchio on June 29 heading along the Corsica coastline to Bastia. But the prisoners head off this Monday for their challenge, to cover the second stage from Bastia to Ajaccio.

They and their guards – they will be watched every inch of the route – have been in training since April for their bid.

However, one of the wackiest sideshows could be a bid to cover the whole 3,500km route of three-week tour on scooters.

Four Czechs, a Finn and a Dutchman have dispensed with pedals and plan to use only leg-power and a pair of wheels to get them through the Tour de France.

They have been training furiously on their footbikes - scooters with a standard-size bicycle wheel up front and a smaller one at the rear – and Vaclav Liska, a theatre actor and the project's mastermind, said: “This will be the first-ever attempt to cover the Tour de France on a footbike and also the greatest sports challenge of our lives."

They first struck upon the idea in 2005 while watching TV coverage of Czech Josef Zimovcak, now 56, who rode a penny-farthing bicycle the entire way, persisting even after he crashed and injured his rib, arm bone and head.

This year's 100th race comprises 21 stages ranging from 25 to 242km, of which six are mountain stretches and four have summit finishes.

"For the cyclists, each stage means five or six, maybe seven hours on a bike," said team member Jan Vlasek, a lawyer who trains every evening after shedding his suit and tie.

"We will definitely be much slower, meaning that we will spend up to 17 hours a day on the decks of our footbikes. That's our primary cause for concern: a lack of sleep and a lack of time to recover."

The footbikers set off on June 28 and hope the adventure will promote their sport, which is still little known despite gaining traction through events like the Footbike Eurocup, held annually since 2001.

The footbike dates to 1994 when Finnish athlete Hannu Vierikko launched his Kickbike company with the glorified scooter design, allowing riders to race faster. Team member Jaromir Odvarka can even reach 98kph.

Find out more about the team:

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