bikinglondon.com

scenic route to the ‘race of legends’

And finally, for me, there’s the time actually spent on the water. Eight
hours’ from Liverpool and just two from Cairnryan, meaning more time on the
bike. Cairnryan 3 Liverpool 0. Now that’s not a scoreline we haven’t seen
too often in the last 12 months.

Once docked in Larne, it’s straight onto the A2, better known as the Causeway
Coastal Route. A glorious stretch of road that for the most part literally
hugs the coast all the way from Belfast to Londonderry. In places you are a
merely yards from the Irish Sea. This is rightly described as one of the
world’s great road journeys. Today the sun is shining, heightening the whole
experience. It’s a case of finding that comfortable speed where I can swing
from bend to bend. At one with the bike, the road and my surroundings.

In the distance I can see dark clouds. Then to my left in the mountains I
glimpse a flash. I convince myself it was a reflection of some kind in the
bright sun. Nothing is going to spoil this ride. Not even the notoriously
fickle Irish weather.

As I reach Carnlough it is obvious that I’m destined to get wet. I decide to
pull over and change into my waterproof gloves in preparation for the
impending downpour. Little did I know how impending. No sooner have I opened
my top box than the heavens open. It’s no ordinary rain. This is Irish rain
and it’s bouncing feet off the ground. All around me people are running for
cover. Deciding that discretion is the better part of valour, I retire to
the nearest pub. When the rain subsides enought for me to continue my
journey, I notice various luminaries of the Irish road racing fraternity
returning to their vans and transporters for the completion of their journey
to Armoy for Saturday’s Race of Legends, where I will watch in awe as they
race on the narrow country lanes in memory of the famous Armoy Armada of
Joey Dunlop, Jim Dunlop, Mervyn Robinson and Frank Robinson.


The beach at Portstewart (AP)

It is now the third time I have completed this journey and it is a ride I will
never tire of. All too soon I reach my digs, a small family-run guesthouse
in Portstewart where I am greeted with the usual Irish warmth. Luggage
decanted, I head first to Armoy for a couple of laps of circuit that on
Friday and Saturday will see road racing’s finest do battle.

As I found on the more famous Isle of Man TT course, actually lapping the
course yourself serves to heighten your admiration for the men and women who
race these roads. Along with the Isle of Man, this is one of the last
remaining places where health and safety restrictions and the corporate
world have not taken over. Sadly, there is a price to be paid for this which
is why my next port of call is Ballymoney, to pay homage to two of the
Dunlop brothers, Joey and Robert. Both were tragically killed taking part in
the sport they loved – motorcycle road racing. Joey in 2000 in Estonia, and
Robert in 2008 at the North West 200 in Northern Ireland.


The Armoy Armada Monument at Armoy

When I arrive at the brothers’ memorial garden I am joined by a Harley-riding
Spaniard. In the garden we exchange nods and go about our business in
silence. It’s hard to describe my emotions, but for me this is a deeply
moving place, akin to a religious building. It is only after we have left
the garden and returned to our bikes that we strike up conversation, express
our mutual respect for the Dunlops and exchange pleasantries. My new-found
friend is also here for the Race of Legends. We part wishing each other well
and a safe journey.

Next stop for me is Joey’s Bar, home and workplace of the late Joey Dunlop.
Here I raise a half of Guinness to the brothers and mingle with other
like-minded bikers.

The next day, Friday, is spent exploring further along the Coastal route, west
of Portstewart. This stretch may not be as rewarding as the first, but is
none the less well worthy of the time taken. Whenever I stop, one of the
locals seems to strike up a conversation. Never have I been anywhere where
bikers are made to feel so welcome. Curiosity makes me follow the sign to
Magilligan Point, To the left of the road is the beautiful Lough Foyle,
tranquillity personified. To the right is Magilligan Prison, a reminder of
the Province’s turbulent history.

Friday evening is practice and qualifying for Saturday’s racing, an ideal
opportunity to mingle with race goers and locals and work out the best
vantage points for race day. This year I opt for someone’s front garden just
along from Dunlop’s Leap. An opportunity to see the fast riders airborn as
they hurtle towards Balaney Cross.

On race day itself my ride to Armoy is surreal. I encounter virtually no
traffic. Then suddenly I reach the throng of bikes. I can’t resist a quick
lap in front of the thousands who are lining the course. For a few minutes I
am Joey Dunlop. Try doing that at Siverstone or Donnington Park.

General spectating is free, even on race day. But for the luxury of a garden
chair and a ringside seat, almost within touching distance of the bikes, I
pay the princely sum of £3, which will be donated to local charities.
Refreshments and lavatory facilities are also available. I just love this
place. The racing is as spectacular as ever and thankfully passes without
incident.


The famous Dark Hedges on a misty morning

All that remains is a visit to the monument to the Armoy Armada to pay my
respect to the legends who inspired this event. And from there to the Dark
Hedges, a magnificent avenue of beech trees recently made famous by the TV
series Game Of Thrones.

For my journey back to Yorkshire, I ride the Coastal route in reverse, but
once in Scotland I opt for the Queens Way. And for all too brief a time the
Queen’s road is my road. A truly fitting way to begin the long journey
south. I suppose that makes it Carnryan 4 Liverpool 0.

Essentials

* The 2014 Armoy Race of Champions takes place on July 25 and 26 (amrrc.com).

* For details of PO ferries between Carnryan and Larne see poferries.com

* Meadow Park Lodge, Portstewart (077 3961 3251; www.meadowparklodgeportstewart.co.uk);
doubles from £69 a night with breakfast.

Five more great motorcycle journeys

North Yorkshire

You’ll find some of the best biking roads in England here, sweeping across
heather-clad moors under endless skies. And when you climb off, towns such
as Hawes, Masham and Helmsley have biker-friendly accommodation and cafés.
Blast across the North York Moors to the coast, sweep back over the Pennines
to Cumbria or climb into the heart of the dales on single-track roads.

White Rose Motorcycle Tours (motorcycletours.co.uk)
has three-day tours from £280 per person.

The B500 in Germany

The Schwarzwald Hochstrasse, to give it its full title, is probably the best
biking road in Europe, twisting up through the pine forests above
Baden-Baden then opening up into glorious sweeping curves and stunning
views. Ride back down again to treat yourself to three hours of sybaritic
bliss in the Friedrichsbad spa (carasana.de/friedrichsbad).

Global Bike Tours (globalbiketours.com)
has six-night tours from the UK from £649 per person.

Route 66 on a Harley

The US is made for road trips. Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles makes your
heart sing more than any other road, and there is no finer feeling than
getting up each morning, checking out of a historic motel, packing your
stuff on a Harley and riding west on this great road.


Route 66: ‘makes your heart sing’

EagleRider (www.eaglerider.com)
has two-week guided rides of Route 66 from $4,201 (£2,459) per person,
excluding flights.

India on a Royal Enfield

You’ll find traffic, people, sacred cows and goats all vying for space in the
heat and dust as you bounce along on a Royal Enfield Bullet, the 1950s
British motorbike still being made in India. Then you spot women walking by
the roadside in exquisite saris, catch your first glimpse of the snowcapped
Himalayas and stop for a cup of chai. Perfect.

Blazing Trails (blazingtrailstours.com)
has tours in India and Nepal from £2,295 per person, including flights; I
can highly recommend them.

Morocco

Just a ferry ride from Spain, this is Africa made easy. It’s a great winter
escape, with light traffic and decent roads, whether you cruise along the
Atlantic coast or head for the high Atlas Mountain passes of Tizi-n-Tichka
and Tizi-n-Test for a rollercoaster of hairpin bends and dizzying views.

Edelweiss (edelweissbike.com)
has a 15-day on-road tour from £2,800 per person, and Wilderness Wheels (wildernesswheels.com)
off-road tours from £910 for three days.
Geoff Hill

See also: The
world’s greatest motorcycle journeys

The
first round-the-world motorbike journey

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Instructor fell to death on Aoraki/Mt Cook

Westpac rescue team on Mt Cook retrieving dead Australian soldier

RETRIEVAL: The rescue helicopter removed the body of the Australian soldier from Mt Cook.

Avalanche hits Mt Cook hut



The commando killed on Aoraki Mt Cook was the instructor of the training group and noted for his mountaineering ability, twice going close to conquering Mt Everest.

The Australian Defence Force today named him as Gary Francis, known to his friends as “Frankie”. The Sydney-based Englishman fell 40m to his death down a crevasse when a pack of snow on an ice bridge collapsed under him yesterday on the Grand Plateau.

Francis, 44, a father of two, was the instructor of the group of nine other soldiers on a two-week survival training exercise on the mountain.

 The former Royal Marine was known as one of the world’s best mountain experts. 

He was not tied to his colleagues when he fell. They retrieved him from the crevasse and attempted in vain to revive him.

Alpine Guides ski guide Ben Taylor said Francis was probing for crevasses on an ice bridge when a square metre of snow collapsed around him about 1pm yesterday.

“When I asked the guys about his experience, they told me he had more experience than the rest of the group combined,” he said.

Taylor said the area was reasonably dangerous at this time of year, and he was surprised Francis was not roped to others or wearing a helmet as he probed for crevasses.

“If he was wearing a rope, he may have only fallen two metres, not 40. I wouldn’t have been comfortable without a rope on.”

The snow bridge was 50 centimetres to one metre thick, and gave way around the soldier into the crevasse, which was “a black hole”, he said.

Francis, who was originally from Welling in South East London, previously spent 13 years in the UK Special Forces where he was a Royal Marines Commando Mountain Leader before moving to Australia with his wife in 2010.

A former commando told News Ltd the special forces trainer was “one of the world leaders in his craft”.

“He was the Yoda of climbing.”

In 2006 Francis was part of an Army expedition which aimed to become the first British climbers to reach the summit of Mount Everest via the west ridge. However, they were forced to abandon the attempt due to conditions on the mountain.

That was the second time in three years he had been within hours of the summit.

After the first attempt, he had been awarded the Royal Humane Society team bronze medal for his role in the rescue of another climber, who broke a leg and was suffering frostbite and snowblindness.

Francis was at the time on a joint Marine and Royal Navy expedition to climb the mountain 50 years after it was first conquered on May 29,1953, by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay.

Francis loved all outdoor activities and regularly posted videos of his action-packed trips on YouTube.

A seven-minute video posted six months ago shows that in 2013 alone he crammed in caving, skiing, rock climbing, kitesurfing, skydiving, paragliding and dirt biking, among other activities.

Senior Constable Les Andrew, of Twizel, said Francis’ wife was in Scotland when the accident occurred.

His fellow troops, who pulled him out of the deep crevasse, did not show much emotion shortly after the incident, but were helpful with investigations, he said.

Australian soldiers worked in vain to save the life of their colleague after he fell, but Taylor said he appeared to have major head trauma injures.

The Australian Defence Force said it was investigating the incident, and Francis’ death had been referred to the coroner.

– Stuff



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The Don takes the long road new

Despite his initial success, Don is still a bit under the radar at the 70.3 distance since he suffered a puncture and DNF’d his first non-ITU World Championship effort at Las Vegas. At age 36, he has a good shot at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Mt. Tremblant and has his eye on fulfilling a boyhood dream at Kona.

EARLY SPORTS

Slowtwitch: Did you ever play soccer, er, football?

Tim Don I was quite good when I was very young because I was the fastest guy on the pitch and I would play midfield and run all over like a Blue Ass Fly. I played for my school’s first team for 2 seasons. We played every lunch time at school. You put your bags down as the goal posts and you’d play on concrete in pair of school shoes. That probably gave me stronger shins than most people. But I knew I’d never go on to the higher levels.

ST: What other sports?

Tim: When I went to senior school at age 11, I did cross country and I was quite good at that and joined the local running club. I also used to mountain bike at Box Hill – just for fun, I never raced. I had swim squad 3-7 times a week growing up as well just for fun — I loved it !!

ST: You grew up in an English running hotbed.

Tim: I grew up near Mo Farah – the 2012 Olympic 5,000-meter and 10,000 meter champion. His school, Feltham Comprehensive, was a rival of my school, St. Marks RC, in the London borough of Hounslow. We were both members of the Hounslow Running Club, which is now Windsor Slough Eton Hounslow Athletic Club. In Mo’s book there is a full sized photo of me competing in a race in Bushy Park, which is right next to Hampton Court Palace in Southwest London, where I grew up. It was a 7 mile race and I was competing with Richard Nerurkar, who set a top British marathon time, now held by Mo Farah. So it was great running culture. When the Kenyans first came to Europe, they attended St. Mary’s University in our neighborhood.

ST: Tell us about Bushy Park.

Tim: Bushy Park was a training ground for some of the best runners in the world. It was full of woods, with deer dashing around. I’d be running there and see Daniel Komen, Sonia O’Sullivan and Craig Mottram training. It was a convenient base for runners from around the world because they could travel easily throughout Europe.

ST: Did you run against Mo or other top talents?

Tim: Yes. He was a few years younger, but every cross country season they held interborough competitions in every county. Two boys at my school were outstanding. Sam Haughian ran 13:19 for the 5000m and Ben Whitby ran a 2:15marathon. I was probably top 5 in the county — but just third at my school. Great for training but not for racing!

ST: Were you strictly a runner?

Tim: I could always swim and I used to work as a lifeguard at Hampton open air pool. That is the home of Thames Turbo – a really big triathlon club located right on the river Thames. Spencer Smith was a member as were a couple of other guys on the Junior National team. So I joined the triathlon club and never looked back.

ST: What did you get from being a part of those outstanding runners and triathletes?

Tim: We were just striving for excellence. We wanted to go the Olympics. We wanted to be world champions. And it was just fantastic because we all had that hunger. When I look back at how many successful athletes there were from various sports it was amazing. In fact, my wife Kelly worked with Steve Ovett’s coach Harry Wilson [Ovett was the 1980 Olympic gold medalist in the 800 meters and former world record holder at the 1500 meters and the mile]. And top triathletes Richard Stannard, Stuart Hayes and Dan Hayes lived just a couple of kilometers away.

ST: What was your training like?

Tim: I used to ride my bike to the track and do my Tuesday session and ride home. Thursday night, we’d go to Bushy Park. In the winter we used to do our sessions in a multi-story car park. And on Sunday, we’d do a long run at Virginia Waters near London to get ready for track meets and cross country. It was just guys training hard with a great club coach who wasn’t paid at all.

FAMILY TIES

ST: Tell us about your family.

Tim: My mum Judith was a primary school teacher. My father Philip was a headmaster at several schools – and also a referee at football. He worked the World Cup in ’94 as and went to the Olympics in ’92 as a referee.

ST: What did you think of your dad’s referee career?

Tim: I realized I never wanted to be a referee. I went to a game with my granddad and asked him: “Grandad, what’s a wanker?” There were lots of nasty chants. You’re only gonna please 11 players and half the fans at one time. But my dad enjoyed it and he excelled. When he retired he went to work for the Premier League as a director of referees.

ST: He trained and reviewed the referees?

Tim: When my dad started these guys had full time jobs and refereeing was part time. Through his efforts, they upped the pay and it became a full time profession. He held training camps, installed coach and fitness testing and reviewed decision making under pressure. He was very straight laced, very focused and very supportive of the sport.

ST: What traits did you inherit from your parents?

Tim: My parents had a fantastic work ethic. Whatever my dad does he commits 100 percent. I like to think I’ve inherited some of that. He always stuck by the rules and I like to think I do the same.

ST: Ever rebel against him?

Tim: My parents were both teachers and they wanted me to go to university. And my sister went to Oxford University. But when I finished secondary school in ’96, I said I want to go to Zimbabwe for the winter to train to be a full time triathlete. Up to the mid ‘90s, triathlon was a small sport, not in the same universe as football. If they knew what triathlon is now and what it has given me, I guess they would have said. ‘Just go for it.’ But back then, there was some resistance.

ST: Was becoming a pro triathlete just one step less frightening to your parents than joining Hari Krishna?

Tim: I definitely wouldn’t have been allowed to do that! I was brought up very Catholic. But I think they saw I had the love and passion for the sport. I funded it myself as a lifeguard and I did some swim coaching and I did a milk round – whatever I could to pay to go to races.

ST: When you did not attend University, was that a heavy blow to your parents?

Tim: I wouldn’t describe it as a heavy blow. But attending university was the path to a better life.

CHOOSING TRIATHLON

ST: When did you start triathlon?

Tim: I did small local races starting in 1990. In ’95, I competed at my first ever world champs. It was the year of the double world championships in Cancun and I placed 69th in the junior world triathlon championship and I got 25th in the junior world duathlon championship.

ST: When did your parents see you had a future in this new sport?

Tim: I think the turning point was when I won the World junior title in 1998. I was offered some relatively good contracts and, as they say, the rest is history.

ST: Who did you beat to win junior worlds in Lausanne?

Tim: Everyone. LAUGHS. Second was Bryce Quirk, an Australian. Next was another Aussie, Levi Maxwell. He beat my friend Stuart Hayes by a whisker — literally one second.

ST: Is Lausanne your good luck city?

Tim: I won three world championship medals there. I won the junior title in 1998. I won the senior title in 2006. And in 2010 I got second to Jonathan Brownlee at the first ITU world sprint champs.

ST: When Alistair Brownlee was recovering from injuries, Jonathan took over while his brother was mending. How have you coped with injuries?

Tim: Don’t ask me that. Touch wood, touch wood. Everyone gets injured. It’s how you manage yourself. Some people say if you are not injured, you are not pushing yourself. I don’t agree with that. I’ve had a few injuries, but I am one of those guys who is very conservative. I went for a run the Sunday before St. George 70.3 this year. I did 200 meters and my left glut wasn’t firing and I just stopped. Some people might have soldiered on. But if I am 1 out of 10 on the pain scale, I will stop. As opposed to some people who will wait until it is 6,7, 8, or 9. They are hard bastards, so they go for it — and they pay for it.

ST: Cutting that workout short worked for you – you took 3rd at St. George. Have you had other injuries?

Tim: I’ve had a pin put in my wrist and I got a broken elbow biking in a race. Kelly my wife says I can train a thousand hours a week and never get injured. But do something clumsy around the house and crazy things happen. I walked into a glass door at home and had to have an operation. I slipped in a wetsuit at a lake and fractured my leg. I was doing tumble turns in the pool and one tile was cracked. I pushed off it and sliced the ball of my foot. Only a few stitches, but you are on crutches and you can’t ride or run for 10 days.

ST: Any injuries at big events?

Tim: When I was racing at the European junior triathlon championships at 16, a marshal ran in front of me and I hit him. It knocked me out for 20 minutes and messed up my knee. The guy I hit I broke three ribs and punctured his lung. I also slipped a disc in my lower back at the UK European cross county trials doing up my shoe lace. I also had a big crash at the 2010 World Champs in Budapest — bloody tram lines!!! I still have funny lumps on my right knee from that. But that is racing. It comes with the territory.

CAREER HIGHS – LAUSANNE 2006

ST: Tell us about your gold medal at Lausanne.

Tim: I was training 50 kilometers away at Leysin, preparing specifically for the 2006 ITU Olympic distance World Championship in Lausanne. Two weeks before, I did a simulation of the course so I was ready. On race day, the defining moment came when Hamish Carter, Kris Gemmell, Frederic Belaubre and some excellent guys led a bike breakaway 45 seconds up the road. I was in the chase pack and as we were approaching one of the big hills I thought, ‘No one is doing anything. We have to do something.’ So I made a solo break to bridge the gap. Once I started, it took me just about a lap to catch the leaders. Then I sat back and rested for a bit before pitching in with my share of the work. By the end of the bike we had just over a minute lead.

ST: How did you break away on the run?

Tim: It was two laps of an out and back course. At the first turnaround I was leading. When I made the turn, I expected to see everyone sitting on me, but it was just Hamish. I was pleased that it was just the two of us. Hamish was the Olympic champ, but there were a lot of solid guys there — Freddy [Belaubre] was the European champ and you can never count Kris Gemmell out.

ST: What next?

Tim: I told Hamish, ‘It’s your turn to lead,’ and he did for a while. Then I took the front again and at 6k I looked around and thought, ‘Shit! I’ve got 10 meters on the Olympic champion. I better not slow down!’

ST: Some would say ‘Don’t look back.”

Tim: I don’t understand that really. I don’t mind leading. It is a two hour race and tactics are involved. I think not looking back is ignorant in some aspects. I slowly pulled away and, as they say, the rest is history.

ST: How happy were you?

Tim: Over the moon. My sister just lives a few kilometers from the race course and my parents and Kelly, my wife-to-be, were also there. It was the first male elite ITU world title Great Britain had since the Simon [Lessing – Olympic distance world titles in 1992, 1995, 1996 and 1998] and Spencer [Smith – 1993, 1994] days. That same day, Will Clarke won the world Under 23s and Alistair Brownlee won the juniors. So it was a good day for Britain.

ST: And Chrissie Wellington won the overall age group women’s title!

Tim: I’d been the nearly man that year. I got 4th at the Commonwealth Games and I don’t think I’d won a World Cup. The year before I won three World Cup [Honolulu, Madrid and Corner Brook] and I got several more podiums. So I got the monkey off my back. And it was in Lausanne where I’d won the junior title in 1998 – the year we found out it was an Olympic sport! Happy days!

HY-VEE

ST: In 2010, Hy-Vee was held for the final time on the West Des Moines course which was very flat. Why did you do so well there?

Tim: Early that season I was training with Brett Sutton in Thailand, which was bloody hot and humid. So, I was probably the lightest I’d ever been. Brett said there is fast road 10k back in England — go and do that. So I got a start in the elite wave at Manchester and I got 7th in 28:56 — only 50 seconds behind the great Haile Gebrselassie. Hy-Vee was just four weeks after, so I kept my track workouts up. At the race people tried breakaways but no one got away. I had confidence in my run, so I came out hard and by 3k I was on my own with a 30 seconds lead. At that time, a group of strong runners [Kris Gemmell, Courtney Atkinson, Bevan Docherty, Jan Frodeno] started working with each other. But when Greg Bennett pulled out, no one wanted to run at the front. I kept working and by the start of the last lap, Liz [Blatchford] and Helen [Jenkins] shouted ‘You still have 20 seconds.’ I did the math and I knew I could jog the last couple hundred meters. [Don ran a race-best 31:12 10k and won by 3 seconds].

ST: What did you do with the check?

Tim: Kelly and I just got married and she was pregnant with Matilda, so we banked it. It was the most money I ever won – and likely the most I will ever win in this sport. There are no more two hundred thousand dollar winner’s purses to be had at this time.

MISSING THE 2012 OLYMPICS

ST: You placed 10th at the 2000 Olympics, 18th in 2004 , and DNF’d in 2008. What stopped you from making your 4th Olympic team at London?

Tim: Politics. I would say that British Triathlon is probably the most successful triathlete federation in the world. We won lots of medals in worlds, Europeans, World Cups, duathlon and Aquathlon.

ST: Not to mention Ironman — but that is not under control of the federation.

Tim: But before London, never in the Olympics. As far as the Federation is concerned, the Olympics are everything and that is why they have approximately a 4 million pound budget before London. The federation coaches didn’t want to lose again, so they decided they would use domestíques to help their best athletes. They picked Vicky Holland and Lucy Hall to support Helen Jenkins and Stuart Hayes to work for the Brownlee brothers. So, if the team didn’t win medals, the federation could say ‘We did all we could.’

ST: The men got gold and bronze. Sadly, Helen Jenkins had an injured knee and did an amazing job to finish 5th – and the domestíque strategy did not come into play.

Tim: The men’s results were great. Alistair and Jonny won the medals. But I think they would have won the medals no matter what. Stuart obviously tried hard, but I don’t he had an impact on the race in my opinion.

ST: How tough was it to miss the team?

Tim: I had dedicated my career for the Olympics – and this was in my home country. Prior to the Olympics I was making top 10s against some of the most competitive fields ever. I was in the best shape of my life and was confident I would do well because I wanted to peak in August — not April. I finished 11th at Sydney and 7th at San Diego and it wasn’t good enough. But that is sport.

ST: What is it about you that you have some off days and some days that are over the moon?

Tim: I am always looking for that big performance. You have to believe in yourself and with that comes the results. I am normally pretty consistent. But I’ve had many a lousy day. Shit happens. It is how you deal with it, you know? I am blessed and lucky I’ve always had good people around me that I trust and people that believe in me.

COACHES

ST: Over the years have you had many coaches?

Tim: Not so many. I started with Graham Fletcher, who was the local club coach and I won a junior world title with him. When he moved to the USA, I worked with Dr. Nicholas Romanoff, the Pose Method running coach, as well as Graham.

ST: What did he do for your mechanics of running?

Tim: He made me aware of the importance of biomechanics – the importance of running smoothly, running economy and running efficiency. You have to remember I was young and impressionable. He had great belief on me – and that in itself is so important for the athlete’s confidence.

ST: He was seen by some as controversial. But many top triathletes and runners benefited from him.

Tim: He had a philosophy that is so strong, you have to believe in it to make it work. He did and I did. I still do some of his run drills today.

ST: What are some of those?

Tim: Quick Feet. If I say “quick feet,” some people might say ‘Well, I do that.’ But it might be some slightly different variation. His drills are very much unique and important. He got a contract with the British Triathlon Federation to do run drills with our runners. He did camps with Leanda Cave, Helen Jenkins and quite a few other up and coming females as well as coaching AJ (Andrew Johns) — bloody legend!! And Romanoff was very much working with my old coach Graham Fletcher. When that ended, one of my best mates started coaching me — Craig Ball.

ST: What was his background?

Tim: Craig just missed out on the 2000 Olympics reserve spot because he crashed at the European champs for our selection for Sydney. So he retired. He coached me to my first World Cup win at St. Anthony’s in 2003 and as I made my second Olympics in 2004. In 2005 I started to work with Brett Sutton and Ben Bright took an increasing role coming into Lausanne in 2006. I went back to Brett to try to qualify for London, but in 2011 I left and did some work with Joel Filliol. And I have been working with Julie Dibens since January 2013.

WHY DID YOU MOVE TO 70.3 RACING?

Tim: When I was 12, all I wanted to do was go to the Olympics. But triathlon wasn’t an Olympic sport. So I wanted to be World Champion and then go to Hawaii and win that one day sounded easy at the time. When I started triathlon, you’d read 220 Magazine in November and it was Hawaii, Hawaii, Hawaii. You’d read about the Scotts — Dave Scott, Scott Tinley, Scott Molina. Just the epicness of it. I made three Olympics teams, but after the London Olympics, I realized that with the Brownlees’ success, the British Federation would continue to go the domestíque way in the future. So I decided it was time to move up in distance.

ST: What was your first step in coming round to your original triathlon dream?

Tim: I looked into the half Ironman where I had a pedigree to run fast and swim at the front. But I knew over 50 percent of the race at this distance is the bike. I needed not so much to improve but to change. So I sought out Julie Dibens to be my coach.

ST: Why do you and Julie work well together?

Tim: Julie has been to the Olympics, and worked with the British Federation. We’ve been to many camps together and she knows my strengths and what I’ve done in results and training in these camps. As far as a career, she is just as good as me. She went to the Olympics. She medaled at the European Champs. And she did the transfer to long course fantastically well.

ST: She is the 2009 70.3 World Champion and was 3rd at Kona in 2010.

Tim: I wanted a person who understood the demands of the bike and also understood I didn’t want to lose my speed on the run. And she is a superb swimmer, and could make sure I didn’t lose my advantage in the swim over some of the long distance guys.

ST: When did you start long course competition?

Tim: I did one 70.3 race in 2009, but I started focusing on the 70.3 races in 2013. [and did very well -- 1st in Calgary and Augusta, 2nd at UK, 3rd at South Africa, 5th at Vineman and 6th at Rev3 Florida]. Last January I started training in South Africa and Julie and I communicated by email and Skype.

ST: You had been based in South Africa for many ITU seasons. What led you to the U.S.?

Tim: I always say about the ITU – it is very global but not very American. Ironman 70.3 is very American but it is not very global. So I wanted to come to Boulder to center my training and racing. I was lucky enough to get a visa and I met up with Franko Vatterot [manager of Craig Alexander, Leanda Cave and Rachel Joyce and a Retül executive] through John Dennis Head of Retül Europe. But ultimately, my wife had to be happy here. Because a happy home is a performing athlete. So Kelly and I came over for five days without our daughter Matilda to let Kelly get a good feel for the place. She loved it too, so we decided to move here and I started working in person with Julie. I could see Julie every day swimming, she would come to the running track and we rode a lot together. And so our coach-athlete relationship evolved.

ST: I am only slightly joking – can she out split you on the bike?

Tim: Julie and Meredith Kessler outswam the whole elite men’s field at Mt. Tremblant 70.3. I’d like to think Julie could not, for my sake. But I’d like to think she could, for her. But it is silly and irrelevant. Who has the stronger serve? Serena or Andy Murray?

ST: How have you improved under her guidance?

Tim: For me, the key was taking on the harder longer sessions. We did some over-geared sessions, some 20- and 30-seconds sprint sets and some steady long uphill sessions. Of course I did my first senior races in 1996 when we were still non-drafting. So I have been riding a road bike since 1997. l didn’t even ride a time trial bike until fairly recently. So we have changed my position with Ivan O’Gorman at Retül so I am slightly lower and more forward. We are still working on it. For me the key was learning to ride a time trial bike and riding it efficiently at threshold, or just below, for 90 minutes in training.

THE EMERGENCY

ST:What was happening with your daughter just before Ironman 70.3 Boulder?

Tim: When your children are young, they are the apple of your eye. Kelly, Matilda and I are very close, because I don’t work 9 to 5 and I am lucky enough to spend more time with my family than most dads. Unfortunately Matilda, who is three, had some headache problems last month, so we took her to the doctors. They thought it could be allergies or sinus so they did a test and put her on a course of antibiotics. She still had headaches, so they tried a steroid spray but she still complained and Matilda’s doctor said, ‘This is not normal.’

ST: When did you know it was serious?

Tim: At the beginning we thought it must be allergies — it was springtime – nothing to worry about. Our doctor said, ‘Well there is no harm, we can give her a proper MRI.’ So we went to Denver Children’s Hospital on a Wednesday and that went well. The next day I finished swimming with Dave Scott’s squad and gave Kelly a call. She said ‘They found a cyst on her brain.’ Which was bleeding, hence the very bad headaches and so we had to be at the hospital at 9:20 the next morning. That morning we saw the neurosurgeon and the neurosurgeon’s nurse told us there was a 5 centimeters by 4.5 centimeters by 2.7 centimeters cyst that was bleeding. They wanted to do what they described as very casual brain surgery. But when you are making a hole in your daughter’s skull, there is nothing casual about it!

ST: What did the doctors do in the operation?

Tim: The next Monday they put a temporary shunt drain coming out of her head to drain 360 milliliters of fluid. We stayed in the hospital 5 days while they decreased the pressure in her head and hoped the bleed had stopped with the pressure release. The headaches were still there but if someone drilled a 1cm hole in your head…… The whole time Matilda was on strong narcotics for the pain and also an IV with antibiotics to ward off infection in the brain.
The hardest thing was the draining tube was tied to a contraption so the pressure was right so the line had to stay level with her collarbone.

If you ever met my daughter, she is no good at sitting still. She would move and we were telling her IN A HIGH PITCHED ANXIOUS VOICE, ‘No, no, no!’ Kelly’s parents flew in from Oxford as soon as we found out about the operation, and they were fantastic.

ST: How did Matilda take it?

Tim: We were numb at first. If Kelly bangs her knee and starts crying ‘Oh my knee!’ Matilda will start crying with her. That’s just what kids do. I guess we had to be stronger than we thought we had to be. But God, kids are so blooming tough! We were nervous wrecks wondering what she would feel about pulling out the shunt. But she was cool as a cucumber. Bloody cooler than me I will tell you. She didn’t have to have a big haircut, which was a good thing thank goodness. But she still has a hole in her skull and the bone will take 8-10 weeks to heal. The surgeon is very happy with how it is progressing at the moment, which is fantastic. Matilda is a superstar. She was absolutely fantastic through the whole thing and we are lucky she is such a tough cookie. A few more MRI’s and hopefully the bleed has totally stopped. Well, she was on the trampoline yesterday!!!!

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Instructor fell to death

Westpac rescue team on Mt Cook retrieving dead Australian soldier

RETRIEVAL: The rescue helicopter removed the body of the Australian soldier from Mt Cook.

Avalanche hits Mt Cook hut



The commando killed on Aoraki Mt Cook was the instructor of the training group and noted for his mountaineering ability, twice going close to conquering Mt Everest.

The Australian Defence Force today named him as Gary Francis, known to his friends as “Frankie”. The Sydney-based Englishman fell 40m to his death down a crevasse when a pack of snow on an ice bridge collapsed under him yesterday on the Grand Plateau.

Francis, 44, a father of two, was the instructor of the group of nine other soldiers on a two-week survival training exercise on the mountain.

 The former Royal Marine was known as one of the world’s best mountain experts. 

He was not tied to his colleagues when he fell. They retrieved him from the crevasse and attempted in vain to revive him.

Alpine Guides ski guide Ben Taylor said Francis was probing for crevasses on an ice bridge when a square metre of snow collapsed around him about 1pm yesterday.

“When I asked the guys about his experience, they told me he had more experience than the rest of the group combined,” he said.

Taylor said the area was reasonably dangerous at this time of year, and he was surprised Francis was not roped to others or wearing a helmet as he probed for crevasses.

“If he was wearing a rope, he may have only fallen two metres, not 40. I wouldn’t have been comfortable without a rope on.”

The snow bridge was 50 centimetres to one metre thick, and gave way around the soldier into the crevasse, which was “a black hole”, he said.

Francis, who was originally from Welling in South East London, previously spent 13 years in the UK Special Forces where he was a Royal Marines Commando Mountain Leader before moving to Australia with his wife in 2010.

A former commando told News Ltd the special forces trainer was “one of the world leaders in his craft”.

“He was the Yoda of climbing.”

In 2006 Francis was part of an Army expedition which aimed to become the first British climbers to reach the summit of Mount Everest via the west ridge. However, they were forced to abandon the attempt due to conditions on the mountain.

That was the second time in three years he had been within hours of the summit.

After the first attempt, he had been awarded the Royal Humane Society team bronze medal for his role in the rescue of another climber, who broke a leg and was suffering frostbite and snowblindness.

Francis was at the time on a joint Marine and Royal Navy expedition to climb the mountain 50 years after it was first conquered on May 29,1953, by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay.

Francis loved all outdoor activities and regularly posted videos of his action-packed trips on YouTube.

A seven-minute video posted six months ago shows that in 2013 alone he crammed in caving, skiing, rock climbing, kitesurfing, skydiving, paragliding and dirt biking, among other activities.

Senior Constable Les Andrew, of Twizel, said Francis’ wife was in Scotland when the accident occurred.

His fellow troops, who pulled him out of the deep crevasse, did not show much emotion shortly after the incident, but were helpful with investigations, he said.

Australian soldiers worked in vain to save the life of their colleague after he fell, but Taylor said he appeared to have major head trauma injures.

The Australian Defence Force said it was investigating the incident, and Francis’ death had been referred to the coroner.

– Stuff



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Killed soldier was one of world’s elite

The tragic death of Gary “Frankie” Francis while on a training exercise has rocked the Sy

The tragic death of Gary “Frankie” Francis while on a training exercise has rocked the Sydney-based 2nd Commando Regiment. Picture: Facebook.
Source: Facebook




THE elite soldier killed during an Australian Defence Force training exercise in the New Zealand Alps yesterday had summited Mount Everest twice and was one of the world’s best mountain warfare experts.


Gary “Frankie” Francis, from the Sydney-based 2nd Commando Regiment, died during a training activity on Mount Cook about 12.20pm local time yesterday.

The 44-year-old former Royal Marine was leading a group of 10 commandos on a two-week Mountain and Cold Weather Operations (MACWO) exercise when he plunged 40 metres down a crevasse on the Grand Plateau.

News Corp Australia has been told that Sergeant Francis was leading his team on a crevasse rescue exercise at the time of his death.

Normally the team would be roped together for the actual exercise but Sgt Francis was surveying the crevasse for its suitability when the crust gave way and he tumbled in.

During the rescue exercise the team would normally climb down into the crevasse and then use one member as the ‘patient’ for the extraction exercise.

A commando led the recovery of his mate’s body and the men administered first aid but sadly were unable to revive him.

Gary “Frankie” Francis was one of the world’s best mountain warfare experts. Pictures: Fa

Gary “Frankie” Francis was one of the world’s best mountain warfare experts. Pictures: Facebook.
Source: Facebook




The MACWO operator was highly experienced in alpine, mountain and altitude activities.

He was an expert in back country skiing, mountaineering, mountain warfare, snow survival, cold weather medical training, ice climbing, over snow mobility and mountain rescue.

Sgt Francis had been the ADF’s MACWO subject matter expert since January 2011, a year after joining 2nd Commando Regiment at Holsworthy.

The Englishman, originally from Welling in South East London, previously spent 13 years in the UK Special Forces where he was a Royal Marines Commando Mountain Leader before moving to Australia with his wife in 2010.

A former commando told News Corp Australia the special forces trainer was “one of the world leaders in his craft”.

“He’s summited Mount Everest twice and has a world record for the highest rescue in history,” he said.

“It’s something everyone spoke of. His achievements were common knowledge.

“He was the Yoda of climbing.”


The former soldier said Sgt Francis was “immensely” respected and a “great mentor”.

“He was without question the leader in his field,” he said.

“He had a quiet demeanour but was extremely confident in his work. It was his civilian love and passion as well as his military love and passion.”

“He was the leader across the entire Special Forces command.”

Sgt Francis’s reputation preceded him.

“His reputation was second to none,” he said.

“He didn’t have to do selection. He was just brought straight in by the Australian Special Forces for his expertise in his field.

“If anything his ability was beyond his tasks. He was extremely experienced.”

The adventurer loved all outdoor activities and regularly posted videos of his action-packed trips on YouTube.

A seven-minute video posted six months ago shows that in 2013 alone he crammed in caving, skiing, rock climbing, kitesurfing, skydiving, paragliding and dirt biking among other activities.

In 2006 Sgt Francis was part of an Army expedition which aimed to become the first British climbers to reach the summit of Mount Everest via the west ridge but they were forced to abandon the attempt due to conditions on the mountain.

That was the second time in three years he had been within hours of the summit.

Sgt Francis’s wife, who was in Scotland yesterday when the tragic accident occurred, was notified of her husband’s death last night. His devastated family back in England are in shock.

Outdoor adventurer Gary “Frankie” Francis had scaled Mount Everest twice. Picture: Facebo

Outdoor adventurer Gary “Frankie” Francis had scaled Mount Everest twice. Picture: Facebook.
Source: Facebook




Australian special-forces troops often conduct cold weather and alpine training in the New Zealand Alps.

Their most recent theatre of operation; Afghanistan; reached temperatures in winter of down to -30 degrees Celsius.

Training for these environments is conducted both domestically at locations such as Mount Kosciuszko as well as internationally.

The Mt Cook area is a dangerous alpine environment and seven people were killed on the mountain last year.

The Plateau is a well-known crevasse field situated about 1500 metres below the summit of the 3700-metre Mount Cook, or Aoraki in the Maori language.

Extreme training is part of the job for special-forces soldiers and since the Vietnam War more have been killed during training than in actual operations.

Defence said no other Army members were injured yesterday and the training was immediately suspended.

“It would not be appropriate for Defence to comment or to speculate on the circumstances surrounding Sergeant Francis’ death while inquiries are underway,” Defence said in a statement.

A report is being prepared for the Coroner.

2nd Commando Regiment has been rocked by Sergeant Francis’s death, which came a day after the funeral of fellow Sydney-based commando, 29-year-old Lance Corporal Todd Chidgey.

Lance Corporal Chidgey died in a non-combat related shooting at the Australian defence base in Kabul on July 1, becoming the 41st Aussie soldier to die in Afghanistan.

kristin.shorten@news.com.au

Gary “Frankie” Francis was one of the world’s best mountain warfare experts. Pictures: Fa

Gary “Frankie” Francis was one of the world’s best mountain warfare experts. Picture: Facebook.
Source: Facebook




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The Don takes the long road

Despite his initial success, Don is still a bit under the radar at the 70.3 distance since he suffered a puncture and DNF’d his first non-ITU World Championship effort at Las Vegas. At age 36, he has a good shot at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Mt. Tremblant and has his eye on fulfilling a boyhood dream at Kona.

EARLY SPORTS

Slowtwitch: Did you ever play soccer, er, football?

Tim Don I was quite good when I was very young because I was the fastest guy on the pitch and I would play midfield and run all over like a Blue Ass Fly. I played for my school’s first team for 2 seasons. We played every lunch time at school. You put your bags down as the goal posts and you’d play on concrete in pair of school shoes. That probably gave me stronger shins than most people. But I knew I’d never go on to the higher levels.

ST: What other sports?

Tim: When I went to senior school at age 11, I did cross country and I was quite good at that and joined the local running club. I also used to mountain bike at Box Hill – just for fun, I never raced. I had swim squad 3-7 times a week growing up as well just for fun — I loved it !!

ST: You grew up in an English running hotbed.

Tim: I grew up near Mo Farah – the 2012 Olympic 5,000-meter and 10,000 meter champion. His school, Feltham Comprehensive, was a rival of my school, St. Marks RC, in the London borough of Hounslow. We were both members of the Hounslow Running Club, which is now Windsor Slough Eton Hounslow Athletic Club. In Mo’s book there is a full sized photo of me competing in a race in Bushy Park, which is right next to Hampton Court Palace in Southwest London, where I grew up. It was a 7 mile race and I was competing with Richard Nerurkar, who set a top British marathon time, now held by Mo Farah. So it was great running culture. When the Kenyans first came to Europe, they attended St. Mary’s University in our neighborhood.

ST: Tell us about Bushy Park.

Tim: Bushy Park was a training ground for some of the best runners in the world. It was full of woods, with deer dashing around. I’d be running there and see Daniel Komen, Sonia O’Sullivan and Craig Mottram training. It was a convenient base for runners from around the world because they could travel easily throughout Europe.

ST: Did you run against Mo or other top talents?

Tim: Yes. He was a few years younger, but every cross country season they held interborough competitions in every county. Two boys at my school were outstanding. Sam Haughian ran 13:19 for the 5000m and Ben Whitby ran a 2:15marathon. I was probably top 5 in the county — but just third at my school. Great for training but not for racing!

ST: Were you strictly a runner?

Tim: I could always swim and I used to work as a lifeguard at Hampton open air pool. That is the home of Thames Turbo – a really big triathlon club located right on the river Thames. Spencer Smith was a member as were a couple of other guys on the Junior National team. So I joined the triathlon club and never looked back.

ST: What did you get from being a part of those outstanding runners and triathletes?

Tim: We were just striving for excellence. We wanted to go the Olympics. We wanted to be world champions. And it was just fantastic because we all had that hunger. When I look back at how many successful athletes there were from various sports it was amazing. In fact, my wife Kelly worked with Steve Ovett’s coach Harry Wilson [Ovett was the 1980 Olympic gold medalist in the 800 meters and former world record holder at the 1500 meters and the mile]. And top triathletes Richard Stannard, Stuart Hayes and Dan Hayes lived just a couple of kilometers away.

ST: What was your training like?

Tim: I used to ride my bike to the track and do my Tuesday session and ride home. Thursday night, we’d go to Bushy Park. In the winter we used to do our sessions in a multi-story car park. And on Sunday, we’d do a long run at Virginia Waters near London to get ready for track meets and cross country. It was just guys training hard with a great club coach who wasn’t paid at all.

FAMILY TIES

ST: Tell us about your family.

Tim: My mum Judith was a primary school teacher. My father Philip was a headmaster at several schools – and also a referee at football. He worked the World Cup in ’94 as and went to the Olympics in ’92 as a referee.

ST: What did you think of your dad’s referee career?

Tim: I realized I never wanted to be a referee. I went to a game with my granddad and asked him: “Grandad, what’s a wanker?” There were lots of nasty chants. You’re only gonna please 11 players and half the fans at one time. But my dad enjoyed it and he excelled. When he retired he went to work for the Premier League as a director of referees.

ST: He trained and reviewed the referees?

Tim: When my dad started these guys had full time jobs and refereeing was part time. Through his efforts, they upped the pay and it became a full time profession. He held training camps, installed coach and fitness testing and reviewed decision making under pressure. He was very straight laced, very focused and very supportive of the sport.

ST: What traits did you inherit from your parents?

Tim: My parents had a fantastic work ethic. Whatever my dad does he commits 100 percent. I like to think I’ve inherited some of that. He always stuck by the rules and I like to think I do the same.

ST: Ever rebel against him?

Tim: My parents were both teachers and they wanted me to go to university. And my sister went to Oxford University. But when I finished secondary school in ’96, I said I want to go to Zimbabwe for the winter to train to be a full time triathlete. Up to the mid ‘90s, triathlon was a small sport, not in the same universe as football. If they knew what triathlon is now and what it has given me, I guess they would have said. ‘Just go for it.’ But back then, there was some resistance.

ST: Was becoming a pro triathlete just one step less frightening to your parents than joining Hari Krishna?

Tim: I definitely wouldn’t have been allowed to do that! I was brought up very Catholic. But I think they saw I had the love and passion for the sport. I funded it myself as a lifeguard and I did some swim coaching and I did a milk round – whatever I could to pay to go to races.

ST: When you did not attend University, was that a heavy blow to your parents?

Tim: I wouldn’t describe it as a heavy blow. But attending university was the path to a better life.

CHOOSING TRIATHLON

ST: When did you start triathlon?

Tim: I did small local races starting in 1990. In ’95, I competed at my first ever world champs. It was the year of the double world championships in Cancun and I placed 69th in the junior world triathlon championship and I got 25th in the junior world duathlon championship.

ST: When did your parents see you had a future in this new sport?

Tim: I think the turning point was when I won the World junior title in 1998. I was offered some relatively good contracts and, as they say, the rest is history.

ST: Who did you beat to win junior worlds in Lausanne?

Tim: Everyone. LAUGHS. Second was Bryce Quirk, an Australian. Next was another Aussie, Levi Maxwell. He beat my friend Stuart Hayes by a whisker — literally one second.

ST: Is Lausanne your good luck city?

Tim: I won three world championship medals there. I won the junior title in 1998. I won the senior title in 2006. And in 2010 I got second to Jonathan Brownlee at the first ITU world sprint champs.

ST: When Alistair Brownlee was recovering from injuries, Jonathan took over while his brother was mending. How have you coped with injuries?

Tim: Don’t ask me that. Touch wood, touch wood. Everyone gets injured. It’s how you manage yourself. Some people say if you are not injured, you are not pushing yourself. I don’t agree with that. I’ve had a few injuries, but I am one of those guys who is very conservative. I went for a run the Sunday before St. George 70.3 this year. I did 200 meters and my left glut wasn’t firing and I just stopped. Some people might have soldiered on. But if I am 1 out of 10 on the pain scale, I will stop. As opposed to some people who will wait until it is 6,7, 8, or 9. They are hard bastards, so they go for it — and they pay for it.

ST: Cutting that workout short worked for you – you took 3rd at St. George. Have you had other injuries?

Tim: I’ve had a pin put in my wrist and I got a broken elbow biking in a race. Kelly my wife says I can train a thousand hours a week and never get injured. But do something clumsy around the house and crazy things happen. I walked into a glass door at home and had to have an operation. I slipped in a wetsuit at a lake and fractured my leg. I was doing tumble turns in the pool and one tile was cracked. I pushed off it and sliced the ball of my foot. Only a few stitches, but you are on crutches and you can’t ride or run for 10 days.

ST: Any injuries at big events?

Tim: When I was racing at the European junior triathlon championships at 16, a marshal ran in front of me and I hit him. It knocked me out for 20 minutes and messed up my knee. The guy I hit I broke three ribs and punctured his lung. I also slipped a disc in my lower back at the UK European cross county trials doing up my shoe lace. I also had a big crash at the 2010 World Champs in Budapest — bloody tram lines!!! I still have funny lumps on my right knee from that. But that is racing. It comes with the territory.

CAREER HIGHS – LAUSANNE 2006

ST: Tell us about your gold medal at Lausanne.

Tim: I was training 50 kilometers away at Leysin, preparing specifically for the 2006 ITU Olympic distance World Championship in Lausanne. Two weeks before, I did a simulation of the course so I was ready. On race day, the defining moment came when Hamish Carter, Kris Gemmell, Frederic Belaubre and some excellent guys led a bike breakaway 45 seconds up the road. I was in the chase pack and as we were approaching one of the big hills I thought, ‘No one is doing anything. We have to do something.’ So I made a solo break to bridge the gap. Once I started, it took me just about a lap to catch the leaders. Then I sat back and rested for a bit before pitching in with my share of the work. By the end of the bike we had just over a minute lead.

ST: How did you break away on the run?

Tim: It was two laps of an out and back course. At the first turnaround I was leading. When I made the turn, I expected to see everyone sitting on me, but it was just Hamish. I was pleased that it was just the two of us. Hamish was the Olympic champ, but there were a lot of solid guys there — Freddy [Belaubre] was the European champ and you can never count Kris Gemmell out.

ST: What next?

Tim: I told Hamish, ‘It’s your turn to lead,’ and he did for a while. Then I took the front again and at 6k I looked around and thought, ‘Shit! I’ve got 10 meters on the Olympic champion. I better not slow down!’

ST: Some would say ‘Don’t look back.”

Tim: I don’t understand that really. I don’t mind leading. It is a two hour race and tactics are involved. I think not looking back is ignorant in some aspects. I slowly pulled away and, as they say, the rest is history.

ST: How happy were you?

Tim: Over the moon. My sister just lives a few kilometers from the race course and my parents and Kelly, my wife-to-be, were also there. It was the first male elite ITU world title Great Britain had since the Simon [Lessing – Olympic distance world titles in 1992, 1995, 1996 and 1998] and Spencer [Smith – 1993, 1994] days. That same day, Will Clarke won the world Under 23s and Alistair Brownlee won the juniors. So it was a good day for Britain.

ST: And Chrissie Wellington won the overall age group women’s title!

Tim: I’d been the nearly man that year. I got 4th at the Commonwealth Games and I don’t think I’d won a World Cup. The year before I won three World Cup [Honolulu, Madrid and Corner Brook] and I got several more podiums. So I got the monkey off my back. And it was in Lausanne where I’d won the junior title in 1998 – the year we found out it was an Olympic sport! Happy days!

HY-VEE

ST: In 2010, Hy-Vee was held for the final time on the West Des Moines course which was very flat. Why did you do so well there?

Tim: Early that season I was training with Brett Sutton in Thailand, which was bloody hot and humid. So, I was probably the lightest I’d ever been. Brett said there is fast road 10k back in England — go and do that. So I got a start in the elite wave at Manchester and I got 7th in 28:56 — only 50 seconds behind the great Haile Gebrselassie. Hy-Vee was just four weeks after, so I kept my track workouts up. At the race people tried breakaways but no one got away. I had confidence in my run, so I came out hard and by 3k I was on my own with a 30 seconds lead. At that time, a group of strong runners [Kris Gemmell, Courtney Atkinson, Bevan Docherty, Jan Frodeno] started working with each other. But when Greg Bennett pulled out, no one wanted to run at the front. I kept working and by the start of the last lap, Liz [Blatchford] and Helen [Jenkins] shouted ‘You still have 20 seconds.’ I did the math and I knew I could jog the last couple hundred meters. [Don ran a race-best 31:12 10k and won by 3 seconds].

ST: What did you do with the check?

Tim: Kelly and I just got married and she was pregnant with Matilda, so we banked it. It was the most money I ever won – and likely the most I will ever win in this sport. There are no more two hundred thousand dollar winner’s purses to be had at this time.

MISSING THE 2012 OLYMPICS

ST: You placed 10th at the 2000 Olympics, 18th in 2004 , and DNF’d in 2008. What stopped you from making your 4th Olympic team at London?

Tim: Politics. I would say that British Triathlon is probably the most successful triathlete federation in the world. We won lots of medals in worlds, Europeans, World Cups, duathlon and Aquathlon.

ST: Not to mention Ironman — but that is not under control of the federation.

Tim: But before London, never in the Olympics. As far as the Federation is concerned, the Olympics are everything and that is why they have approximately a 4 million pound budget before London. The federation coaches didn’t want to lose again, so they decided they would use domestíques to help their best athletes. They picked Vicky Holland and Lucy Hall to support Helen Jenkins and Stuart Hayes to work for the Brownlee brothers. So, if the team didn’t win medals, the federation could say ‘We did all we could.’

ST: The men got gold and bronze. Sadly, Helen Jenkins had an injured knee and did an amazing job to finish 5th – and the domestíque strategy did not come into play.

Tim: The men’s results were great. Alistair and Jonny won the medals. But I think they would have won the medals no matter what. Stuart obviously tried hard, but I don’t he had an impact on the race in my opinion.

ST: How tough was it to miss the team?

Tim: I had dedicated my career for the Olympics – and this was in my home country. Prior to the Olympics I was making top 10s against some of the most competitive fields ever. I was in the best shape of my life and was confident I would do well because I wanted to peak in August — not April. I finished 11th at Sydney and 7th at San Diego and it wasn’t good enough. But that is sport.

ST: What is it about you that you have some off days and some days that are over the moon?

Tim: I am always looking for that big performance. You have to believe in yourself and with that comes the results. I am normally pretty consistent. But I’ve had many a lousy day. Shit happens. It is how you deal with it, you know? I am blessed and lucky I’ve always had good people around me that I trust and people that believe in me.

COACHES

ST: Over the years have you had many coaches?

Tim: Not so many. I started with Graham Fletcher, who was the local club coach and I won a junior world title with him. When he moved to the USA, I worked with Dr. Nicholas Romanoff, the Pose Method running coach, as well as Graham.

ST: What did he do for your mechanics of running?

Tim: He made me aware of the importance of biomechanics – the importance of running smoothly, running economy and running efficiency. You have to remember I was young and impressionable. He had great belief on me – and that in itself is so important for the athlete’s confidence.

ST: He was seen by some as controversial. But many top triathletes and runners benefited from him.

Tim: He had a philosophy that is so strong, you have to believe in it to make it work. He did and I did. I still do some of his run drills today.

ST: What are some of those?

Tim: Quick Feet. If I say “quick feet,” some people might say ‘Well, I do that.’ But it might be some slightly different variation. His drills are very much unique and important. He got a contract with the British Triathlon Federation to do run drills with our runners. He did camps with Leanda Cave, Helen Jenkins and quite a few other up and coming females as well as coaching AJ (Andrew Johns) — bloody legend!! And Romanoff was very much working with my old coach Graham Fletcher. When that ended, one of my best mates started coaching me — Craig Ball.

ST: What was his background?

Tim: Craig just missed out on the 2000 Olympics reserve spot because he crashed at the European champs for our selection for Sydney. So he retired. He coached me to my first World Cup win at St. Anthony’s in 2003 and as I made my second Olympics in 2004. In 2005 I started to work with Brett Sutton and Ben Bright took an increasing role coming into Lausanne in 2006. I went back to Brett to try to qualify for London, but in 2011 I left and did some work with Joel Filliol. And I have been working with Julie Dibens since January 2013.

WHY DID YOU MOVE TO 70.3 RACING?

Tim: When I was 12, all I wanted to do was go to the Olympics. But triathlon wasn’t an Olympic sport. So I wanted to be World Champion and then go to Hawaii and win that one day sounded easy at the time. When I started triathlon, you’d read 220 Magazine in November and it was Hawaii, Hawaii, Hawaii. You’d read about the Scotts — Dave Scott, Scott Tinley, Scott Molina. Just the epicness of it. I made three Olympics teams, but after the London Olympics, I realized that with the Brownlees’ success, the British Federation would continue to go the domestíque way in the future. So I decided it was time to move up in distance.

ST: What was your first step in coming round to your original triathlon dream?

Tim: I looked into the half Ironman where I had a pedigree to run fast and swim at the front. But I knew over 50 percent of the race at this distance is the bike. I needed not so much to improve but to change. So I sought out Julie Dibens to be my coach.

ST: Why do you and Julie work well together?

Tim: Julie has been to the Olympics, and worked with the British Federation. We’ve been to many camps together and she knows my strengths and what I’ve done in results and training in these camps. As far as a career, she is just as good as me. She went to the Olympics. She medaled at the European Champs. And she did the transfer to long course fantastically well.

ST: She is the 2009 70.3 World Champion and was 3rd at Kona in 2010.

Tim: I wanted a person who understood the demands of the bike and also understood I didn’t want to lose my speed on the run. And she is a superb swimmer, and could make sure I didn’t lose my advantage in the swim over some of the long distance guys.

ST: When did you start long course competition?

Tim: I did one 70.3 race in 2009, but I started focusing on the 70.3 races in 2013. [and did very well -- 1st in Calgary and Augusta, 2nd at UK, 3rd at South Africa, 5th at Vineman and 6th at Rev3 Florida]. Last January I started training in South Africa and Julie and I communicated by email and Skype.

ST: You had been based in South Africa for many ITU seasons. What led you to the U.S.?

Tim: I always say about the ITU – it is very global but not very American. Ironman 70.3 is very American but it is not very global. So I wanted to come to Boulder to center my training and racing. I was lucky enough to get a visa and I met up with Franko Vatterot [manager of Craig Alexander, Leanda Cave and Rachel Joyce and a Retül executive] through John Dennis Head of Retül Europe. But ultimately, my wife had to be happy here. Because a happy home is a performing athlete. So Kelly and I came over for five days without our daughter Matilda to let Kelly get a good feel for the place. She loved it too, so we decided to move here and I started working in person with Julie. I could see Julie every day swimming, she would come to the running track and we rode a lot together. And so our coach-athlete relationship evolved.

ST: I am only slightly joking – can she out split you on the bike?

Tim: Julie and Meredith Kessler outswam the whole elite men’s field at Mt. Tremblant 70.3. I’d like to think Julie could not, for my sake. But I’d like to think she could, for her. But it is silly and irrelevant. Who has the stronger serve? Serena or Andy Murray?

ST: How have you improved under her guidance?

Tim: For me, the key was taking on the harder longer sessions. We did some over-geared sessions, some 20- and 30-seconds sprint sets and some steady long uphill sessions. Of course I did my first senior races in 1996 when we were still non-drafting. So I have been riding a road bike since 1997. l didn’t even ride a time trial bike until fairly recently. So we have changed my position with Ivan O’Gorman at Retül so I am slightly lower and more forward. We are still working on it. For me the key was learning to ride a time trial bike and riding it efficiently at threshold, or just below, for 90 minutes in training.

THE EMERGENCY

ST:What was happening with your daughter just before Ironman 70.3 Boulder?

Tim: When your children are young, they are the apple of your eye. Kelly, Matilda and I are very close, because I don’t work 9 to 5 and I am lucky enough to spend more time with my family than most dads. Unfortunately Matilda, who is three, had some headache problems last month, so we took her to the doctors. They thought it could be allergies or sinus so they did a test and put her on a course of antibiotics. She still had headaches, so they tried a steroid spray but she still complained and Matilda’s doctor said, ‘This is not normal.’

ST: When did you know it was serious?

Tim: At the beginning we thought it must be allergies — it was springtime – nothing to worry about. Our doctor said, ‘Well there is no harm, we can give her a proper MRI.’ So we went to Denver Children’s Hospital on a Wednesday and that went well. The next day I finished swimming with Dave Scott’s squad and gave Kelly a call. She said ‘They found a cyst on her brain.’ Which was bleeding, hence the very bad headaches and so we had to be at the hospital at 9:20 the next morning. That morning we saw the neurosurgeon and the neurosurgeon’s nurse told us there was a 5 centimeters by 4.5 centimeters by 2.7 centimeters cyst that was bleeding. They wanted to do what they described as very casual brain surgery. But when you are making a hole in your daughter’s skull, there is nothing casual about it!

ST: What did the doctors do in the operation?

Tim: The next Monday they put a temporary shunt drain coming out of her head to drain 360 milliliters of fluid. We stayed in the hospital 5 days while they decreased the pressure in her head and hoped the bleed had stopped with the pressure release. The headaches were still there but if someone drilled a 1cm hole in your head…… The whole time Matilda was on strong narcotics for the pain and also an IV with antibiotics to ward off infection in the brain.
The hardest thing was the draining tube was tied to a contraption so the pressure was right so the line had to stay level with her collarbone.

If you ever met my daughter, she is no good at sitting still. She would move and were telling her IN A HIGH PITCHED ANXIOUS VOICE, ‘No, no, no!’ Kelly’s parents flew in from Oxford as soon as we found out about the operation, and they were fantastic.

ST: How did Matilda take it?

Tim: We were numb at first. If Kelly bangs her knee and starts crying ‘Oh my knee!’ Matilda will start crying with her. That’s just what kids do. I guess we had to be stronger than we thought we had to be. But God, kids are so blooming tough! We were nervous wrecks wondering what she would feel about pulling out the shunt. But she was cool as a cucumber. Bloody cooler than me I will tell you. She didn’t have to have a big haircut, which was a good thing thank goodness. But she still has a hole in her skull and the bone will take 8-10 weeks to heal. The surgeon is very happy with how it is progressing at the moment, which is fantastic. Matilda is a superstar. She was absolutely fantastic through the whole thing and we are lucky she is such a tough cookie. A few more MRI’s and hopefully the bleed has totally stopped, well she was on the trampoline yesterday!!!!

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Glyndwr University hosts 2014 Commonwealth Games athletes

Athletes from Africa training in North Wales for the Commonwealth Games have enjoyed a taste of Welsh culture courtesy of local schoolchildren.

Team Lesotho are living and training at Glyndwr University in Wrexham in preparation for the competition, which starts in Glasgow on July 23.

The athletes took time out of their busy schedule to attend an event featuring children from Ysgol Bodhyfryd in Hightown at the university’s Catrin Finch Centre.

The 21 athletes, their management team and coaches were treated to a performance of Welsh songs by up to 60 children, ahead of their appearance at the International Eisteddfod.

The youngsters also sang an African chorus and joined the team in an impromptu dance, before presentations were made to the visiting group.

The athletes, who are representing their country in athletics, boxing, mountain biking, swimming, squash and table tennis, also stayed in Wrexham ahead of the Olympics in London in 2012.

Team Lesotho manager Tlali Rampooana said it was a pleasure to return to North Wales, and thanked Glyndwr University for being “wonderful hosts”.

He said: “It is so lovely to be back, it’s fantastic to be here.

“We are enjoying being back in Wrexham and training is going very well.

“It is a pleasure for us to meet people from the community and enjoy special days like this while we are here.

“The team leaves on Friday, but before then we have lots planned.

“Glyndwr University have been wonderful hosts and the facilities are also very good. We are preparing well  for the Commonwealth Games.”

As well as working closely with members of the university’s Sport and Exercise Sciences department, the boxers have trained at Shotton ABC and athletes have used the facilities at Deeside athletics stadium.

The team also paid a visit to Maelor School, which has been raising money for a schools link programme with Lesotho.

Professor Michael Scott, Glyndwr University Vice Chancellor, welcomed the group back to Wrexham and wished them well at the Games.

He said: “We’re thrilled to have them back.

“When they are here, they become part of the Glyndwr community and part of the fabric of life at the university. They are enthusiastic and have great energy that rubs off on everyone else.

“I wish them good luck in their training and at the Commonwealth Games where I’m sure they’ll be very successful.”

Last summer, Glyndwr University and the Government of Lesotho signed a Memorandum of Understanding which will see them work together and share best practice in fields including climate change, sport and equality.

There will also be an opportunity for Glyndwr students to train at the High Altitude Training Centre at Mohale.

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5 Fantastic UK Breaks

The UK is a fantastic place for a holiday and has so many options to choose from. It’s certainly not all about London, with trips to the North of England, Scotland and Wales all wowing the visitor in their own way. With major airlines like BA, Indigo and Lufthansa flying to the UK from all around the world, there’s no excuse not to add the UK to your list of places to visit in 2013.tor in their own way. With major airlines like BA, Indigo and Lufthansa flying to the UK from all

Below are some of our favourite recommendations of things to do on your visit to the UK

Romantic trip to the Lake District

The Lake District’s appeal is much more than just its serene landscape, beautiful sunsets, and tranquil boating experiences. The beauty of love here is heightened by the romantic activities this landscape offers. The simple act of taking a walk up a hill and being rewarded with a blissful vantage point has a way of deepening the bonds. As you chat away overlooking lakes such as Coniston Water, Bassenthwaite, or even tarns, romance is sure to bloom. For the more adventurous couples, you can go biking and climbing. Afterwards, retreat to an idyllic village for a romantic dinner in a local restaurant, before returning to one of the Lake District’s beautiful lodges to relax in front of a roaring fire with a glass of wine.

Group getaway in Scotland

Scotland’s culture, sights and sounds provide for a relaxing retreat. Whether you are looking to go for a convention, brainstorming retreat, or simply want to unwind, Scotland’s quiet rural areas are definitely worth looking into. Whether it is in the northern shore areas where unspoiled nature meets the sea, or the legendary Loch Ness highland areas where tales come to life, the rejuvenating spirit of the Scotts will have you up and running again. Visit castle ruins, enjoy their unusual diet as you catch up with old friends and family. You can choose to stay at a charming log cabin, a luxury holiday cottage, or visit farmhouses.


Family trip to Cornwall

Cornwall is one of the UK’s most popular family holiday destinations, and with good reason. Within this area, activities for all ages and tastes abound. From warm beaches, famous restaurants, art centers, interesting museums, and beautiful gardens, there is truly something for everyone. The accommodation options are also plenty, with luxury accommodation or budget lodging available as per your budget. You can set up in a cottage, or thrill your children by going camping.

Guided tour of Edinburgh

Much of the history of the Scotts lies preserved in their capital, Edinburgh. This city bears a wide variety of ancient buildings and monuments that display the rich culture of Scotland. In addition, the city has many modern attractions that are bound to keep you interested. A guided tour is the best way to experience the unique perspectives of the city, both from a historical and entertainment perspective. Tour guides today offer a variety of tour methods, including minibus tours, walking tours, and even boat tours. You can also take a themed tour; for example a food tour, trike tour, or even a Harry Potter tour of the city. These fun ways of exploring Edinburgh allow you to see the city in a uniquely exciting perspective.

Escape to Llandudno, Wales

The sea town of Llandudno in Wales offers a great escape for anyone looking for quiet, scenic getaways. The town stands next to the ocean, offering picturesque beaches for you to enjoy. In addition, the surrounding inland is stunningly beautiful and the town is peaceful. You can choose to enjoy this scenery on a cable car, or tour the town on the Great Orme Tramway. If you have had your fill of the beach, you can relax in one of the beautiful gardens, visit one of its ancient churches, or tour the Llandudno museum. If you came with kids, take them to the Llandudno ski slope, visit the cinema, or just drop them off at the Bonkerz fun center as you go to tour the area. This quiet little town will bring you to life with its scenery, food, and culture.

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Stephen Crabb gets Wales secretary job

Stephen Crabb outside Downing StreetStephen Crabb met David Cameron at Downing Street on Tuesday

Stephen Crabb MP has been appointed as Welsh secretary, after the serving minister David Jones was sacked.

The Preseli Pembrokeshire MP was Mr Jones’s deputy, but was promoted in a cabinet reshuffle.

Mr Crabb said he was “very pleased” and would be “working hard for Wales” and was described by First Minister Carwyn Jones as “pragmatic and reasonable”.

BBC Wales understands Vale of Glamorgan MP Alun Cairns will take over as junior minister at the Wales Office.

Shortly after leaving Downing Street Mr Crabb – who had been widely tipped to replace Clwyd West MP David Jones – paid tribute to his predecessor.

He tweeted: “I will build on the excellent work of David Jones. He achieved so much during his time as Welsh secretary leaves a strong legacy to Wales.”

Crabb tweets

In further tweets, he said: “Wales deserves the best and I look forward to providing a strong voice for Wales around the Cabinet table.”

He said it was a “huge privilege” to join the cabinet.

Mr Crabb added: “This Gov is ambitious for Wales, working to ensure Wales at front of the economic recovery”.

Entering Gwydyr House, the Whitehall headquarters of the Wales Office, Mr Crabb said he was “looking forward to getting on with the job right now”.

David Jones was seen by Labour ministers in Cardiff as someone instinctively hostile to devolution, and during First Minister’s Questions Carwyn Jones said he now hoped for a “new approach and a new attitude” from the Wales Office.

Continue reading the main story




And now it’s official, as the newspapers used to say…

“I do have to say that I know that my colleagues have dealt with the new secretary of state in the past and have found him to be pragmatic and reasonable, if I can put it that way, remembering of course the obvious political difficulties and differences that are there…”

Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies congratulated his “close colleague” on his promotion.

Mr Davies has had a number of public disagreements with David Jones, including over the form of income tax raising powers UK ministers are making available to the Welsh assembly.

“Stephen Crabb has been an effective and hardworking minister and will be a powerful advocate for Wales around the cabinet table,” said Mr Davies.

Shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith urged Mr Crabb to “break free” from what he called the “ceaseless negativity” of his predecessors’ attitude to Wales and the Welsh government.

The new secretary of state should “go into the new job with the aim of standing up for our nation, rather than indulging in politicised attacks on Wales, with the aim of winning votes in England”, said Mr Smith.

Raised by a single parent in a council house, Stephen Crabb was first elected as Preseli Pembrokeshire MP in 2005 and re-elected in 2010. He previously a government whip and David Jones’s deputy at the Wales Office.

Mr Crabb grew up in Haverfordwest and attended the town’s Tasker Milward School.

Stephen CrabbStephen Crabb entering the Wales Office as secretary of state for the first time

Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire MP Simon Hart MP said: “From my point of view as a Pembrokeshire colleague I think it will put a bit of an important spotlight on our part of south west Wales.

“All the years I’ve known Stephen, he’s got a very shrewd brain. He understands business, he understands politics, he understands Wales and I think he will bring just a nice refreshing and different approach to the way politics is seen in Wales.”

Mr Jones had succeeded his former Wales Office boss, Cheryl Gillan, in September 2012, and was the 16th secretary of state and the first to have been an AM, having sat in the Welsh assembly from 2002 to 2003.

  • Former Cardiff barrister Robert Buckland, MP for Swindon, has been made Solicitor General in the reshuffle.
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Families pay tribute to Jeffrey Locke and Lesley Collyer who died in A10 crash …



Family members have paid tribute to two motorcycle fans who lost their lives on the A10.

Jeffrey Locke, 58, died along with Lesley Collyer,after the red Chrysler they were travelling in left the road near Broxbourne on Friday, July 4 shortly after 10pm.

His daughters Kerry and Jemma said:“Dad was a real character, he was born in St Bart’s hospital and always described himself as a ‘true cockney’ – and he really was.

“He was so cheeky and never did what he was told, but he was so loveable.

“Even his own mum – our nan – used to say how naughty he was as a boy and we would laugh as he never seemed to grow out of that.

“Dad grew up in Walthamstow and when he left school he became an apprentice gas fitter.

“He met our mum, Chris, on holiday on the Isle of Wight, despite the fact they both lived in London at the time.

“They started going out for about a year after they initially met at a holiday camp and married in 1974.

“Dad turned his hand to many jobs including being a milkman, bus driver and a cab driver before becoming a BT engineer for more than 25 years before retiring three years ago.

“He loved his Harley Davidson and motorbikes. He travelled all across Europe on his Harley – even riding and being in the company of footballer and commentator Ian Wright whilst riding to Barcelona.

“When he bought his Harley Davidson in 2000 he used to joke that it was the year he had his ‘baby’, as Kerry had a baby that year too. Dad also loved playing darts, golf and fishing, and won trophies for all of them.

“Dad also loved his holidays and had been to Thailand and the Caribbean – he really enjoyed himself.

“Dad had a great sense of humour, he used to do his own commentary on the soaps which used to make people laugh – people who saw him do it used to say it was better than the storylines and we all found it very funny.

“He was a great dad and a brilliant granddad – he spent so much time with his grandchildren and they loved him so much.

“We are still coming to terms with what has happened. Our world has been turned upside down, but Dad was and is still so loved and we will miss him.

One of his friends said something so true to us: ‘Heaven has gained one hell of an angel’ – this sums up the type of character he was. He will always be loved and never forgotten.”

Mrs Collyer’s children issued a joint statement in memory of their mum, who died in the same incident.

It read: “Our Mum Lesley was a fun loving person, who had a great zest for life. She loved to be surrounded by people old or young.

“She worked as a stylist at Hair by David on and off for the last 40 years. Lesley trained as a junior, then went on to become a top stylist.

“She was married to her childhood sweetheart Mick, our Dad, for almost 32 years. They had three children and three grandchildren. Sadly Mick passed away in July 2010 with Lymphatic Cancer.

“Lesley was heartbroken but she knew had to get on with life for the sake of the children and grandsons.

“She was a member of the Essex Hog Chapter with Mick for about 10 years, but still kept up riding her Harley Davidson after Mick passed away.

“Lesley had many friends in the biking world and loved a Sunday ride out to meet other bikers.

“She was a great nan to her grandsons but used to get into more trouble than they did!

“Sadly we lost our mum Lesley on July 4 in a tragic road accident. We could never put into words how much we loved her and always will.

“She was our shining star, now our diamond in the sky.”

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