Round the world racer Lee Fancourt hammers on despite disqualification

Taxi ride to bail out support crew robs Brit of record chance

by John Stevenson   April 7, 2014  

Lee Fancourt in Australia (LeeFancourt:Facebook)

The rules of round the world bike racing and the Guinness World Record qualifications are unforgiving, as World Cycle Race competitor Lee Fancourt has found out. The 36-year-old was disqualified after failing to return to the point in India where he took a taxi in order to help out his support crew, while on schedule to break the record by weeks.

But the ultra-determined rider from Gloucester is carrying on despite having no chance of getting the official record.

On his Facebook page, Fancourt said: “I was disqualified for not leaving my support drivers without food/water for 24 hours in India. As I had no other choice than to get in a taxi & ensure their welfare, I've been disqualified. Makes no difference to me though, I'm still going to be the fastest person in history to cycle the world.”

World Cycle race organisers expressed regret at losing Fancourt from the event. He had made it very clear before the event that he was aiming not to just break the record but to smash it out of the park.

“We agree with many comments already posted online that the race will be poorer without Lee,” they said in a statement. “However, as organisers we have to implement the rules consistently out of fairness to the other riders and for the integrity of the World Cycle Race now and in the future.”

The official record currently stands at 125 days, set by Alan Bate in 2010. Mike Hall’s 2012 World Cycle Race circumnavigation has not been ratified by Guinness. Hall chose not to submit his ride because Guinness changed the rules after he finished.

Then and now, record and race rules only permit riders to use “scheduled public transport, such as buses, aircraft, ferries etc” to cross oceans or other impassable barriers.

Travel by taxi is specifically forbidden unless the rider then returns to the point where he or she was picked up and then carries on. “If riders take a break from the race and travel forward in a prohibited form of transport they have to backtrack and cycle that distance starting from exactly the same place,” said race organisers.

They added: "Lee travelled in a private taxi for approximately 130km on his way to Kolkata airport in India last week. He was in a difficult situation which he described on his Facebook page. His motives for doing so are not in question and we do not believe he was seeking any advantage."

Fancourt is unfazed by the setback, apparently taking the view that he’ll be the moral victor even if he hasn’t met the letter of the record requirements.

He said: “I told everyone who would listen before I left that I was going to be the fastest person ever to cycle around the world and that still stands. I will be back in Greenwich within 90 days, thus smashing all riders’ times before me.

“Being WCR champion is only a label. It doesn't matter in reality. What matters is me achieving my goal.”

Fancourt is currently in Australia, after passing through France, Monaco, Italy, Serbia, Albania, Montenegro, Bulgaria, Greece, Moldova, Russia, Ukraine, India, Vietnam and Thailand. He has averaged over 225 miles per day, a pace that would have easily landed him the record had he backtracked after his Indian taxi ride.

To support Fancourt’s chosen charity, Great Ormond Street Hospital, go to his Just Giving page.

13 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

I don't quite understand why he didn't just go back?

makes precisely zero sense to me!

Racer 074 for the 2014 Transcontinental Race; 2,000 miles from London to Istanbul.

http://themartincox.co.uk/2014/03/racer-074-transcontinental-race-2014/

posted by themartincox [403 posts]
7th April 2014 - 11:10

22 Likes

I don't get it either, but then I can't get a sense from the article if he went back and still got DQ'd or he didn't go back at all.

As myself and Martin above both know, Guinness rules are pretty strict and often stupid, they get changed after a record gets set, which, sometimes makes it difficult to compete on a level playing field with the previous record holder.....

Gkam84's picture

posted by Gkam84 [9110 posts]
7th April 2014 - 11:24

29 Likes

But he isn't going to achieve what he wants because he's flouted the rules by not returning to the correct point. In effect, he is not cycling when required to do so, therefore, he is not cycling across the world.

If I was in his shoes I would not feel as though I was achieving anything now

Marky

Marky Legs's picture

posted by Marky Legs [119 posts]
7th April 2014 - 11:24

48 Likes

Maybe I missed it, but I don't see anything in the article to clarify what exactly happened - so he took the 130km taxi ride, helped out his support crew, then did what?

Started riding 130km ahead of where he should have been?

Started riding 130km away from where he should have been, but on a route that amounted to the same distance that he would have ridden without the cab ride?

Started riding 130km behind where he should have been, thus adding extra distance?

Took the return cab ride, but not to the *exact* same spot that he left from?

Something else?

Last night I would have considered trading a very loud baby for a really nice bike.

posted by notfastenough [3569 posts]
7th April 2014 - 12:08

40 Likes

Why couldn't the support drivers just drive on ahead? And why does he have support drivers at all? That in itself shouldn't be allowed, it isn't le Tour.

posted by drfabulous0 [404 posts]
7th April 2014 - 12:21

24 Likes

I truly admire Lee for pushing hard regardless of this books stupid rules.
You can take a bus but not a taxi, you can take ferry but no other boat, you can take a plane as long as its a scheduled flight.

posted by Mart [110 posts]
7th April 2014 - 13:29

21 Likes

Lee had hired a local driver as I believe his support were not allowed to drive the car. Seems to have been mis-communication somewhere as the driver thought it would take 2 days or something and an argument ensued. (Mumbai to Kolkata via Kerala). Not helped by Lee's very long day in the saddle for the hired hand.

His support team (aunt and brother) seemed unable to get themselves the last stretch into Kolkata. (I think it was 130 miles not km, but anyway..)

Lee would have been able under GWR rules to get himself back to the same spot and start riding again and would have still been in the race. He also mentioned a lack of cash but surely he could have picked that up in Kolkata before returning to his previous end point?

He says he is going to do the distance elsewhere but that is against the rules that he agreed to.

Note that in other adventure races you are not allowed to go forward on the race course under any circumstances you have to go backwards if necessary due to mechanical or injury. A guy was DQ'ed from second in the Tour Divide Race a few years ago for going forwards and returning back to the point he left the course. The GWR rules are actually softer in this regard.

The only reason I can think of for Lee not going back and re-riding the section is a previous issue. I do not want to go into it but he did something 'suspicious' in Europe. I have no insight into if it would have caused a subsequent DQ - it may have been within race rules - but if knew he was being investigated for that he may have decided to just push on. His supporters have been quite abusive on social media to the organisers and those people who think the rules need to be adhered to which I have been unhappy about.

It has to be said he is riding really strongly. ~250 miles day after day is incredible even with support. Mike Hall managed 200 miles per day in 2012 unsupported but trying to measure the advantage of support is difficult. It is just not the lack of weight on the bike but getting food and accommodation as well as moral support.

Blackhound's picture

posted by Blackhound [453 posts]
7th April 2014 - 13:46

41 Likes

Cheers for the write up Blackhound, not been following him at all because he is being supported. Its a bit like the LeJogLe record.

One person does it, gets drafted most of the way...etc. Then Guinness change the rules, no drafting, only one bike..

Gkam84's picture

posted by Gkam84 [9110 posts]
7th April 2014 - 16:31

10 Likes

Not wishing to take anything away from Lee's huge efforts so far but w/o a record ratified by sticking to the rules, the fastest unsupported RTW is what counts most imo. It all gets a bit messy and unregulated otherwise, yet tbh the record isn't really that important, it's how you do it. Support crews make it a battle of resources and it's just not in the spirit of it all to me. Take what a solo world tourer does and speed it up, simple. Mike Hall's ride still stands as the best performance to date in that respect.
“Being WCR champion is only a label. It doesn't matter in reality. What matters is me achieving my goal.” - can't say fairer than that though. He knows what he wanted to do and if he's satisfied with the result. Whatever the detail it's quite a ride!

posted by james-o [218 posts]
7th April 2014 - 17:24

18 Likes

Being supported is cheating.

Airzound

posted by Airzound [585 posts]
8th April 2014 - 10:34

20 Likes

Lee is on a very impressive ride, especially since the East Coast of India, though perhaps not making quite the daily distances quoted, he lost quite a bit of time in the early days but he is still roughly on record pace.

I was surprised at the start that none of the competitors were using 2 computers to have a secure record of mileage and he has reported on his Facebook page that both his computer and his Garmin have cut out at times. That would have put him in a rather precarious position as regards proving the mileages anyway but this error makes that all a little accademic. Its a very unfortunate error in the interpretation of the rules really, Lee appears to be quite open and honest with his updates so its a big shame he didn't go back

His mileage appears to have been an estimate since at least Nice according to some posts and WCR website is quite erronous in places too (many of the daily distance averages do not to tie up with the totals and the number of days on the road). By checking his history here: http://trackleaders.com/worldcyclerace14i.php?name=Lee against google maps I would put his total distance somewhat closer to 10000km and Madura roadhouse today after almost 38 days of racing, which makes for 262km/day and a current forecast of 110 days versus Alan Bate's Record of 29050km* in 125 days which gives 232km/day

Lee seems to have his support team sorted now though in Australia and is putting down consistent 220+mile days, he's also been very tidy with his transfers so barring any major incidents or mistakes there's no reason he couldn't get under 100 days. He does have around 900-1000 miles to make up that he dropped in Europe mind, plus the 130 from India so I hope he has a good plan for that as routing on the fly could hurt him.

*Alan rode more than this and but this is what Lee will need to ride as a minimum and includes an extra 50 miles (~0.5%) error margin on measuring devices.

posted by Mike_Hall [15 posts]
8th April 2014 - 16:43

9 Likes

Airzound - Guinness do not distinguish between supported and unsupported rides so Lee (or anybody else) is welcome to try and gain the record as they see fit. I agree unsupported is more 'pure' though and times that impress me most.

I have been doing the daily distances for WCR and it has been difficult tracking Lee as Mike has said with his computer issues. My numbers were in fact close to 10,000 km yesterday as Mike suggests. However, Lee had said he had passed 6,000 miles of riding last weekend and I added 800km (500 miles) to my total to be in line with Lee's accounts.

I know using google maps is not necessarily correct and probably underscores the actual distance. On the other hand I do not want to contradict what the rider is saying so I always use a riders distance in preference to my estimate.

For a record to be ratified a rider will need to satisfy GWR they have ridden the correct distance (amongst other things) not me. The daily distance is more around keeping people engaged with the event.

Blackhound's picture

posted by Blackhound [453 posts]
9th April 2014 - 8:21

11 Likes

Yes, you've been doing the riders, the race and the followers great service Blackhound.

Mine is just a word of caution about data accuracies really, from my own experience (albeit an annecdotal sample of one) is that the Google shortfall is in the region of a couple of percent at most. As you know I experienced the same underscoring versus Google maps.

I believe the error margin is related to the geodesic approximation of the data to the earth's surface as well as inaccuracies in elevation data. There will also be some 'driveway' shortfall as the rider makes macroscopic detours from the road for pitstops.

Really the most accurate place to take measurement is on the ground (at the wheel) which is why its a shame Lees computer has not captured the whole trip, but even that is fraught with errors. Such errors are usually innocuous but its the vast distances involved with a trip like this which make them quite significant and that's if we assume they are not corrupted at all along the way which is easily possible by accident.

Tyre size, inflation/weight, wear and computer calibration can all affect the measurement. When an error of 0.005% is a mile, it all matters. That there is no requirements to mitigate error is perhaps another example of the shortcomings of the GWR rules.

posted by Mike_Hall [15 posts]
9th April 2014 - 11:53

7 Likes