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Jason MacIntyre, born Lochgilphead, 20 September 1973; died 15 January 2008
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. But at 34 the rider from Fort William was still improving – and dreaming of making an appearance at this summer’s Olympics in Beijing.
What would have made such an achievement all the more remarkable would have been 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 was given just two weeks to live. The twins celebrated their ninth birthday last weekend.
MacIntyre prioritised his children over his cycling career and missed what should theoretically 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 last 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 best 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.
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, and so racing proved a major challenge, both logistically and financially.
When he was 22, MacIntyre decided to try and 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.
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 to Club La Santa asking for a job and the organiser of the cycling training camps wrote back and 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. And the next day we got jobs as guides for the training groups. So we led the groups in the mornings and 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 enjoyed one of his biggest victories, winning the Tour of the North in Ireland.
His career was interrupted, though, by the birth of his twin daughters. Donald 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 thirteen Scottish titles he won three British time trial titles, all in the last two seasons. He was also heading for his fourth, the British hilly time trial championship, leading the eventual winner, David Millar, until a puncture ended his challenge.
He prepared meticulously, paying particular attention to diet. “He was so focused, so driven, it was his passion,” says Donald Paterson. “He got some support, but he did it 99% off his own back. 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 two daughters, Chloe and Morgan.
Courtesy of The Scotsman