Fan shares passion for Tour de France with exhibition in Marsham Village Hall

A north Norfolk man who names his baby son Henri Desgrange after the founder of the Tour de France could be said to have a passion for the annual sporting spectacular.

Pete Martin readily admits to his weakness for anything connected to the annual race and is so keen to share his enthusiasm that he's organising a fan's-eye-view exhibition.

Civil servant Mr Martin, 44, who lives near Aylsham will be filling Marsham Village Hall with all-things Tour over the weekend of June 23-24.

He's hoping cycle clubs, solo pedallers and the simply curious will drop by to admire his collection of memorabilia, built up over 14 years of travelling to France to watch a race which Mr Martin says ranks as the world's third greatest sporting event, behind only the Olympics and the World Cup.

He first got hooked after Channel hopping to Melun, outside Paris, to watch the start of the 1998 race.

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'I was overwhelmed. It's not just a cycle race, it's a carnival and a festival. You can just suck up the atmosphere in a town or village for hours before anything happens. It's loud, exciting and colourful. You get what's called 'Tour fever' - and I've got it,' said Mr Martin, who has since missed only a couple of Tours - a race which annually covers about 3,500km, features some 198 competitors, is held over three weeks and is split into 21 stages.

As well as photos and newspaper cuttings, he will be displaying many of the souvenir items, including T-shirts and hats, liberally distributed from a promotional caravan which travels the route ahead of the riders, and the Tour road and other signs which Mr Martin said were part of spectators' pickings once the race had passed through.

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The exhibition takes place a week before this year's Tour de France and Mr Martin will be making his usual pilgrimage, this time to see the start, in Li�ge, Belgium.

In past years he has visited stages across the continent, including Monaco and in the Alps.

Fortunately, Mr Martin's passion is shared by his children Remy, 17, Millie, 14, and his wife Lisa.

And it looks as though baby Henri will not have much choice in the matter. The Martins were just leaving home to watch the Tour of Britain pass through Norfolk last autumn when Mrs Martin went into labour with him.

'We didn't see the race - which was a bit annoying,' joked Mr Martin, adding that, by a strange coincidence, Henri shares his September 18 birth date with Tour de France legend Lance Armstrong, who has won the race a record seven consecutive times.

Mr Martin was due to take to the saddle himself on Sunday in his first Norwich 100 cycle race.

? The exhibition will be open from 11am-5pm on Saturday June 23, and 9am-4pm on Sunday June 24. Admission is free with tea, coffee and cake available at �2. Any profits will go to Marsham Church.

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