There’s only two things certain in life, being born and dying. What you do between those two points in time, and how long the gap is between them depends on three things. The decisions you make in life. The decisions that other people make in their lives. And nature. Some people are responsible for their own deaths, others are killed by the actions of someone else. And then for some people their body just loses the ability to support life.
Out of those three options there’s only one you can worry about. Ensuring you don’t do something to cause your own death. Like crossing a road without looking or driving when you’re drunk. You might not have a say in your final end point, but you can do your best to make it be as far into the future as possible.
The other two options aren’t things to lose sleep over. If someone else makes a mistake while driving or fails to check that vital component on a train or plane then that’s just bad luck. And when your body decides it’s time is up, you’re in the hands of doctors, modern medicine and whichever god you might believe in.
As the rapper Drake says in one of his songs;
‘Everybody dies but not everybody lives’.
Some people waste their lives doing nothing of note. Just going from one day to the next without any passion for living. Almost waiting to be put out of their misery. While others live their lives to the full. You don’t have to live to 100 to have had a good life. Sometimes much shorter lives can be just as fruitful. And it’s these people I want to remember. The people who died too young but ensured that they will always have a place in many people's hearts, including mine.
The 15th of January 2008 is a date many people will never forget. It was this day 3 years ago that a young Scot called Jason McIntyre was tragically killed near his home in Fort William, leaving a wife and 2 young daughters. It’s still something that fills me with sadness.
I first met Jason at the Herald Sun Tour in 2005, as he was a guest on my Recycling.co.uk team because he was good friends with my Scottish team-mate Evan Oliphant. Although having never met Jason before, I knew of his reputation as a phenomenally hard trainer with hellish turbo sessions as his speciality. As I got to know him over the few weeks in Australia I learned many things about him and realised that he didn’t transfer this brutal training mentality to his demeanour off the bike. On the bike he looked smooth and effortless, and off it I always found him friendly and easy to talk to. We shared a love of dance music and with Jason being a talented DJ, he sent me some of his mix tapes when we got back to the UK.
While Jason’s achievements on the bike were impressive, including his British National Time Trial Championship victory and his National 25 mile TT win, it was his devotion to his family which impressed me most. With twin daughters he certainly had his hands full, especially as one has serious health problems. Jason was her full time carer and spent a lot of time with her at a hospital many miles from their home in the highlands. While some champions are preoccupied with money or fame, here was one who put his daughters and his wife before anything else in the world.
I once did a race against Jason in 2006, and soon after I started going out with my fiancee. It incorporated the East of Scotland Champs, which I didn’t qualify for, and was also part of the Scottish national series. Neither of these two were of interest to me so I just wanted to win the race to impress my new love. Jason on the other hand was targeting both the Championship and the overall series.
The race panned out as expected with the two of us well clear of the rest. I asked Jason if he would be kind enough to let me win and we sprinted for the few spectators to make it look convincing. The only problem was he jumped so hard he gapped me and had to back right off to ensure I won. After the race he gave me the medal he had won for the East of Scotland Champs, as he had 2 daughters and only one medal, so it was safer to give it to me than let them fight over who got it.
Jason died at the age of 34 after being hit by a van while training. The van driver was fined for dangerous driving, and two young girls lost their devoted father, while his wife Caroline lost her loving husband.
Later the same year I had to go to the funeral of a long-time friend of mine David Morris. David had recently taken up cycling and took part in his first ever road race which was promoted by my local club, Lune RCC. The race was only 10 minutes from my house so I rode out to watch. I remember although David was well off the back of the bunch by himself, he had a smile on his face. He went home after the race and went to bed that night, and at some point his heart stopped and he died in his sleep next to his girlfriend.
I didn’t get a seat at the funeral, there were too many people there. How a 22 year old could have so many friends, I’m not sure. The thing that I noticed was that every person who went up to talk spoke of David’s passion for living. If he could have been there that day I’m sure he would have had a smile on his face, knowing how missed he was. Cycling was something that made him happy, and it was also by a twist of fate what killed him. His heart was a ticking time bomb and that first race proved to be his last. Maybe not the finest cycling career of all time, but certainly a special life.
Everyone has someone that they've lost before their time. Cycling is full of tragic stories including the greats, Marco Pantani, Jose Maria Jimenez and Frank Vandenbrouke. And the riders who I knew personally, Jason McIntyre, David Morris, the friendly rider who followed me as National U-23 Champion, Peter Bissell and the talented Irishman Paul Healion.
Fallen Stars we will always remember you. Even though you died too young, you also lived. Thanks for the memories.
Thanks for reading