On Sunday 3rd March 2013 I travelled to South gloucestershire to race the Severn Bridge Road Race. My first road race of the year.
I arrived and signed on with an old teammate of mine, Junior Heffernan. While getting our kit on for the race we exchanged stories of our previous years racing, he was based in France. We joked about our time riding together for Pendragon – Le Col – Colnago. And we both admired each other’s new bikes. He was very excited about racing for his new team Herbalife, a professional set up in the UK. Looking to have a promising year with races here and abroad.
On the third lap of six. Junior collided with a vehicle at speed. Alex Higham and Allan Ridler stopped immediately. Both medically trained, but tragically Junior died at the scene.
After the race was stopped. I broke down in tears in the race HQ. Everyone was shocked. Sickened. Saddened.
Junior was a friend. Teammate. Talented cyclist. And above all a quality guy. He was always happy when I saw him and never had a bad word for anyone. His loss will be felt throughout the cycling and racing community.
My thoughts go out to Junior’s parents Bernard and Denise. His Family. Friends. To all of those who were also at the race.
This tragic event has sparked up the question and debate of what could be done to improve rider safety in British racing. For example in France and Belgium drivers are stopped minutes before a race goes past by Marshals, they have the right to stop traffic. By law. Unlike in the UK where the NEG (National Escort Group) and marshals are not entitled to stop traffic. There are a few accredited marshals in Wales and Essex who have the power to stop traffic until the race has passed. This is a rarity. This accreditation must be given to all NEG riders and marshals in order to prevent any similar incidents from happening. And to give riders the safety they deserve. For £100 for a British Cycling Gold Membership and racing licence I’d expect this to be a given. Where does our money go?
There is an e-petition set up by Paul Morton, an NEG rider and ex-policeman himself. This can be found here – http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/46709 I was the 5th person to sign, its now up to just under 8000 signatures. If you could take a few minutes to sign it, you WILL save lives. And change British Cycling for the better.
A tweet I saw last week puts British Cycling’s part in this in perspective – “British Cycling need to spend less money on making some track riders 0.003 seconds faster. And spend more money on rider safety”
Lastly, Junior’s parents have set up the ‘Junior Heffernan Memorial Fund’ so please give anything you can – http://www.charitychoice.co.uk/fundraiser/robinbrew/the-junior-heffernan-memorial-appeal-olympic-legacy-project
Hopefully these events will cause a change to come to British Cycling. It’s time a change was made.
Rest In Peace Junior. Happy riding wherever you are mate.