Jason MacIntyre

Scottish and British champion cyclist

Born: 20 September, 1973, in Lochgilphead.

Died: 15 January, 2008, near Spean Bridge, aged 34.

JASON MacIntyre might have been as talented a cyclist as his fellow Scots Graeme Obree and Chris Hoy, but circumstances dictated that his potential was not realised until he reached his mid-30s. At 34 the cyclist from Fort William was still improving – and dreaming of an appearance at this summer's Olympics in Beijing.

What would have made such an achievement all the more remarkable was MacIntyre's status as a full-time carer for his daughter, Morgan. One of twins, with Chloe, Morgan was born with a kidney condition and given just two weeks to live. The twins celebrated their ninth birthday last weekend.

MacIntyre always put his children above his cycling career and missed what should have been his peak years, but when he did return, he came back stronger than ever, and his three British titles were all won in the past two seasons, despite his commitments, and despite weekly journeys with Morgan from their home in Fort William to Yorkhill hospital in Glasgow.

The tributes in an online condolence book yesterday placed MacIntyre among the greatest Scottish cyclists.

"Like Robert Millar and Graeme Obree before him, Jason showed that belief and total dedication could overcome the limitations our nation all too often puts on itself. And the best was still to come." Another noted: "Jason was a true gent on and off the bike and very modest about his superb talent. What a tragic loss to Scottish cycling."

Certainly MacIntyre did not have the recognition his achievements deserved, partly, perhaps, because he was a late developer, and never part of the Lottery-funded British squad. Yet his influence was still felt. "He was an inspiration to everyone around here and to cyclists throughout Scotland," said his lifelong friend Donald Paterson.

Mr Paterson continued: "As kids we were always out on our bikes, riding up through Glen Nevis, then climbing to the top and riding back in the pitch blackness, trying to follow the white lines on the road. We spent our childhoods outdoors."

MacIntyre began racing at 18 and showed immediate promise. It was clear, said another friend, that he was "a natural athlete", but living in the Highlands proved a disadvantage. All the big races were in the central belt, or further south, so racing proved a major challenge, logistically and financially.

When he was 22, MacIntyre attempted to overcome that hurdle by basing himself overseas. With another Highland cyclist, Gary Paterson from Thurso, he travelled to Lanzarote, intending to spend the whole winter training in the sun.

Mr Paterson explains: "We knew each other from racing in the north of Scotland and we became friendly. We were both quite young and ambitious. But we realised that we couldn't reach the top by staying in the Highlands, so we decided to go to a warm-weather camp.

"We wrote asking for a job and the organiser of the cycling training camps told us to come out and see him. So that's what we did. We travelled there with about 200 in our pocket and with a ticket for a return flight in ten weeks. We had to get a taxi at the airport, which used up a lot of our money, and spent the first night sleeping rough. But at least it was warm.

"The next day we got jobs as guides for the training groups. We led the groups in the mornings, then did our own training in the afternoons. And in exchange we got free accommodation and food. We used to take a rucksack to breakfast in the morning and fill it for the day."

On his return, MacIntyre was transformed, and the following season took one of his biggest victories, winning the 1997 Tour of the North in Ireland.

His career was interrupted, though, by the birth of his twin daughters. Mr Paterson says: "He was a rock for his family. They were his priority and he would have done anything for them and his wife, Caroline. When Morgan had health problems he re-evaluated his life and the cycling took a back seat for a couple of years."

When family life stabilised, he was able to return to racing. One friend suggested that cycling provided a "release", though his results indicated that it was more than that. As well as 13 Scottish titles, he won three British time-trial titles, all in the past two seasons, including breaking Graeme Obree's ten-mile time-trial record last summer, covering the distance in 18 minutes 47 seconds. He was also heading for victory in last year's British hilly time trial championship, leading the eventual winner, David Millar, until he punctured.

He prepared meticulously, paying particular attention to diet. "He was so focused, so driven, it was his passion," said Mr Paterson. "He got some support, but he did it 99 per cent off his own bat. Realistically, he only had a few years left at the top level, but this year, with the ambition of going to the Olympics, was going to be the pinnacle for him."

Jason MacIntyre is survived by his wife, Caroline, and their two daughters.