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Victims were all boys aged between ten and sixteen, one of them robbed at knifepoint

The town of Preston, Lancashire, has been hit with a spate of violent thefts of bikes from youngsters, with three such incidents occurring in as many hours on Tuesday, although Lancashire Constabulary does not believe the crimes are linked.

The second, and most violent, took place at noon on Tuesday, reports the Lancashire Evening Post, and took place at the junction of St Paul’s Road and Moor Park Avenue in Deepdale.

A 16-year-old boy riding his bike, a Saracen Mantra that cost £70, was surprised by a man who leapt out from behind a parked car, grabbing the bike’s handlebars and putting a knife to the throat of the victim. The assailant made off with the bike.

Just five minutes later, another bike was stolen in Deepdale, this time in St George’s Road, with the victim a boy aged just ten years who was riding home from the shops.

The youngster realised he was being followed by a group of men, one of whom punched him in the face when he turned round. As he lay on the ground and started picking up his shopping, he saw that one of the men had ridden off with his bike, with five other men walking next to him.

The first attack happened at 9am that morning close to the Asda supermarket in Eastway. The victim, a 13-year-old boy, had stopped to fix a puncture when a man aged between 17 and 20 came up and forced him to hand over his bike as well as some money.

The assailant was described as white, around 5 foot 11 inches with blond straight hair and wearing a pink bandanna which had crosses drawn on it in black marker pen.

Detective Sergeant John Crichton commented: “We are appealing for anyone with information to contact us.”

Police can be contacted on 01772 203 203 or anonymously through Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.