YORK cyclist Cat Dixon has set a new world record for cycling around the world on a tandem – with 19 days to spare.

Cat, along with her friend Raz Marsden, crossed the finishing line on Wednesday after a desperate dash against time to get out of France as that country went into lockdown over the coronavirus outbreak.

Originally, they had wanted to beat the women’s record of 320 days – but they smashed the men’s record of 283 days too, completing their circumnavigation in 264 days.

Over the past nine months, the pair have cycled more than 18,000 miles across five continents and raised at least £23,500 for Motor Neurone Disease – the MND Association – and Oxfam.

They faced many challenges, including the bushfires in Australia, but their biggest hurdle came in the final straight – of getting out of France amid the pandemic curfew.

They managed to get the last tickets on the penultimate passenger ferry out of the port of Caen in Northern France on Tuesday night. On arrival in Portsmouth the duo then had to make the final push up to Oxford, where Raz lives, and where they set off nine months ago.

Through her Facebook videos and blog, Cat has kept followers updated. She said: "It was a bit touch and go. We have made it back in the nick of time!"

Cat, 53, who gave up her job as CEO of Askham Bryan College in York to fulfil her dream of cycling around the world, said: "Everyone was isolated on the ferry – confined to cabins – there was no food or drink available for the whole voyage. It felt very strange – but something I suspect we will need to get used to in the next few months."

And she said a big thank you to everyone who had sponsored them.

"We have cycled through 25 countries and across five continents. We have experienced extreme heat, monsoon, drought, cold and seen environmental pollution and climate change on a scary scale – but we have also experienced the incredibly beauty of our world and the kindness and generosity of people."

The goal of their fundraising venture, called TandemWow, was to attract one pound per mile and collect at least £18,000 for good causes, and Cat said she was delighted to have beaten that as well as the world record.