Tributes flow from around world as 'Mr Cycling' Ken dies doing what he loved most

Joseph Bulmer

Tributes have been paid to South Devon's 'Mr Cycling' Ken Robertson who has died doing what the loved doing the most.

Ken, 85, was cycling along Torquay seafront when he is believed to have suffered a heart attack.

He was on his way to one of the three social rides that he still led every week.

The South-West has produced many great riders and personalities over the years, but only one has been universally called the region's 'Mr Cycling'.

A former quality controller at Paignton's Standard Telephones & Cables factory, father-of-two Ken devoted nearly 70 years to the sport he adored.

No back number as a rider in his youth, he became one of the UK's leading officials and race organisers, and the tributes which have poured in from all over the world are testament to the esteem and affection in which he was held.

Mike Gratton, chairman of the Mid-Devon CC, said: "Ken inspired so many people of all ages, and he was a wonderful ambassador for our sport.

"The messages and stories people have sent in about him are some comfort for all of us who will miss him so much.

"We are already starting to think how we should remember him, but it won't be easy for a man who leaves such a huge legacy."

Ken had continued to work, for his beloved Mid-Devon, the National Time Trials Council, the Paignton Regatta and many other bodies.  He listened to all of them - and then often did exactly what he thought was right in the first place.

It landed him with far more work than one man should reasonably carry, but then he had far more energy than the rest of us.

Ken helped the Mid-Devon grow from a few dozen racers to its current position as one of the leading clubs in the country, with more than 700 members of all abilities.

Its modern success has been founded on the Dartmoor Classic 'sportive', which Ken first organised in 2007, in conditions so bad that the Ten Tors Expedition was called off the same weekend.

It took more than a bit of biblical weather for Ken to abandon a bike ride.

He has been a constant influence ever since, the Classic's entry now capped at 4,000 and the biggest not-for-profit cycle marathon in the UK.

The Classic route was suddenly blocked one year, but since Ken had ridden almost every piece of tarmac in the country, he was able to redirect and re-sign it at a few hours' notice.  Few riders even knew it had been changed.

Though he had a reputation as a stickler for detail, and immovability once his mind was made up, stories of his quiet kindness are legion.

When Marcin Bialoblocki first arrived from Poland in 2006 and turned up for one of Ken's Springtime Pursuit races near Exeter, he had only a jalopy of a bike to ride.

Ken spotted it and, although Bialoblocki rode for a rival club, immediately helped to find him a slightly better machine at short notice, not easy since Bialoblock is 6ft 6in tall.

Bialoblocki went on to a WorldTour professional career and rewrote the UK time-trialling record-books, but he never forgot Ken's welcome, entering many of his events when he could easily have gone elsewhere.

Tributes locally were led by Sport Torbay president and former Torbay Sports Council chairman Roger Mann who has known Ken as a colleague and friend for years.

Roger said: "How sad to hear of the passing of Ken Robertson. Hen was a great campaigner for cycling, and now joins the list of Rick Wooldridge (basketball), Sheila Thomas (Tennis) and Mary Cunliffe (Junior sport) and others, whose vital support has been lost to local sport in recent times.

"Like the others, Ken counted his time for nothing when set against achieving better conditions for his sport.

"Local Sport could always depend on Ken's support, and know that it would be passionate and utterly selfless.  So many of us will miss him! Heaven will welcome him with his own special yellow jersey!"

Despite heart-related problems which frustrated him hugely, Ken continued to cover around 150 miles a week, celebrating his 84th birthday by riding…84 miles for charity, of course.

His wife Ann, who died only two years ago, always hoped that, when Ken's time came, it should happen while he was on his bike.

Her wish came true.  A fitting end to a life, much of it in the service of others, truly well lived.