Round-the-world cyclist James Bowthorpe has revealed he had a narrow escape when he was threatened by five thugs in Iran.
Bowthorpe, who has now reached New Delhi in India, described the terrifying incident on his blog.
He said: “A car pulled in front of me, making me stop; five young men, taking pictures with their mobiles. I cycled off after they started jeering.
“For the next 5km they followed me, alongside shouting, in front or just behind, getting increasingly confrontational. I can’t speak Farsi but I can tell when someone is getting angry!
“I was scared and shaking a bit, completely out of my depth. I could feel my elbows wobbling but I thought that if I carried on they would get bored. It was now properly dark. They went ahead again and I saw their brake lights go on. As I got closer I could see they had got out and were standing by the road.
“I should have stopped and turned around but I didn’t know what grade of menace they represented. Luckily I was going quite quickly and managed to swerve out of the way as they tried to grab me off the bike…
“They were soon back alongside, gradually edging me off the road… I braked and crossed the highway where two teenagers were walking along… The car accelerated off up the hill; I had been saved by two 16-year-olds!”
The teenagers put Bowthorpe in touch with a soldier in the Iranian army, who took him to a nearby police station and explained that the men in the car would have, at best, attacked him and taken his bike and passport. Bowthorpe said: “He actually ran his finger across his throat, but who knows?”
The incident took its toll on Bowthorpe, who later admitted: “I still haven’t managed to shake my extreme unease since that evening and haven’t been cycling after dark much… I often ride into the evening to get the mileage in, so this does hinder me somewhat.”
Bowthorpe is aiming to beat the round-the-world record set by Mark Beaumont last year. Beaumont completed his trip in 194 days; Bowthorpe reckons he can do it in 150. He is aiming to raise £1.8 million for Parkinson’s disease research.