Top cyclist's widow demands answers

THE widow of a British cycling champion killed in a road smash broke down in tears at court yesterday as she viewed footage of her husband in training.

Caroline MacIntyre, 33, was giving evidence on the first day of a fatal accident inquiry into the death of her husband, the Olympic hopeful Jason MacIntyre, 34.

The road racer was hit by a van on the A82 near Fort William on 15 January, 2008. He had been in intensive training in the hope of selection for the summer Olympics that year in Beijing and also the Commonwealth Games this year in Delhi.

Mrs MacIntyre told the inquiry at Fort William Sheriff Court that there were unanswered questions over her husband's death. She wept as footage from a television news report featuring the cyclist was played to the court,

showing him in training in Lochaber. His bike was also carried into court for her to identify.

The full-time carer, who looks after their twin girls Chloe and Morgan, said her husband had been training intensively for two-and-a-half years.

She said: "He was out seven days a week training, concentrating for selection for the Olympics and Commonwealth Games. He was cycling up to 90 miles some days. On 15 January, he was going for a normal Tuesday run, as he put it 'to spin my legs'.

He was planning a "short" 40-mile cycle from Fort William along the A830 Mallaig Road to the Commando Memorial in Spean Bridge before returning to the Highland town.

Asked by fiscal Alison Wylie what had happened, she replied: "It was 9:55am when I last saw him. He was holding on to the roof of the car as he was clipping his feet into the pedals. I asked how long he was going to be and he said … probably about three hours."

Mrs MacIntyre said her husband was out on his winter training bike, wearing a distinctive blue and white Scotland vest on top of a training jacket. He was also wearing a woolly hat and red sunglasses. She added: "It was a nice day, a bit cold, but it was very clear and dry. He carried a presence on the road, especially as he is tall at 6ft 2in."

Her lawyer Andrew Henderson asked: "What is it you want to get from this inquiry?" Mrs MacIntyre replied: "There does not seem to be any reason as to why this possibly could have happened.

"I have not heard enough evidence to state what would cause this to happen. There do not seem to be enough answers.

"He has cycled that road thousands of times. I know I won't get all the answers, but there is no reason why this could happen in the first place. Hopefully, I can find out those answers."

The court heard that Mr MacIntyre died after a collision with a Highland Council pick-up, driven by Robert McTaggart on the A82. McTaggart was fined 500 and banned from driving for six months.

The council worker, who gave evidence after Mrs MacIntyre,

told the court: "I have never reapplied for my licence and don't intend to drive again." He said: "I simply can't explain how it happened. I did not see him."

He denied he had been distracted by either listening to the radio or being on his mobile phone when the collision happened as he turned in to a junction at the Highland Council depot at Carse Industrial Estate.

A driver who had been behind McTaggart told police at the time that he had spotted the cyclist and had thought the pick-up would stop for him. McTaggart

said that he had been driving in total for about three hours that day, but claimed he was not tired at the time.

McTaggart, 37, who is still employed by the council as a recycle loader, said he only became aware of a problem after hearing "a thump". He jumped out of the van, and discovered the bike with Mr MacIntyre hanging over the back of his vehicle.

Consultant pathologist Roslyn Rankin, 53, who carried out a post-mortem examination on the cyclist at Raigmore Hospital, claimed a helmet would not have saved his life. She said he suffered "rotational brain damage", where the brain undergoes movement within the skull. She added: "Given the nature and severity of the brain injury, a helmet would not have prevented this."

In January 2008, more than 400 mourners gathered for Mr MacIntyre's funeral, including former world champion cyclist Graham Obree and representatives from Scottish Cycling, the sport's governing body.

Mr MacIntyre broke Obree's ten-mile time trial record in 2007.

He won 13 Scottish titles and three British championships and represented Scotland at the 2002 Commonwealth Games.