Picture a traditional ice-cream shop in Spain.
Warm weather, tourists mingling and a 194cm Aussie cyclist talking life and ice-cream flavours with the shop owner out the back of the store.
Jason Lowndes loved life and all its trimmings.
He was an elite cyclist who rode professionally around the world against the best in his sport.
Jason's achievements on his bike were not what made him special.
His ability to make other people's lives better was what made him special and is what those close to him will miss most.
Less than a week after the 23-year-old was tragically killed when hit by a car while on a training ride in Mandurang, some of his closest cycling friends and his much-loved sisters Rebecca and Meaghan fittingly met at Jason's favourite Bendigo cafe the Old Green Bean to talk about what he meant to them.
"Jason had a positive outlook on every situation and always saw the best in people,'' fellow pro rider Robbie Hucker said.
"Having the pleasure of knowing someone like that made your life better.
“He didn't go out of his way to make your day better... it was just his natural personality to care about others."
"Jase had an emotional maturity for someone who was so young,'' Sam Witmitz added.
"I'm 32, but a lot of the time I felt I was looking up to him in the way he handled people.
"His ability to chat with anyone was amazing. It didn't matter what gender, age or background - Jason could relate.
"He was genuinely interested in people and that's why everyone loved him."
One of Taylor Anstee's lasting memories of his great mate was one of their final encounters together.
Taylor and Jason were supposed to have dinner together, but dinner turned into supper after Lowndes turned up late.
"Jason had gone to Coles to get groceries and ended up staying there watching this busker,'' Anstee said.
"All the shoppers were just walking past this busker and giving him nothing.
"Jason spent time with the busker and was filming him and the busker got a real kick out of it. Jason saw the beauty inside everyone."
Bendigo cyclist Chris Hamilton took a giant step in his pro career this year when he moved to Girona in the north-east of Spain.
Hamilton’s first choice for a room-mate in Girona was Jason and he had a profound influence on the rising cycling star.
"He (Jason) changed me a lot as a person,'' Hamilton said.
"I'd never really lived away from home before we lived together in Girona and I struggled to get out of my comfort zone when it came to meeting people.
"Jason changed that. It wouldn't matter what street we walked down in Girona, he would stop to talk to people. We were on a first name basis with an ice-cream guy in Girona. Jason would stop in and talk to him all the time. They'd sit down in the back room of his shop and talk about life and ice cream flavours.
"He changed me for the better. He was like my brother. I went through some hard times with things that happened back home, but he was always there for me. We wouldn’t always need to talk about things, just his presence would cheer you up."
Aside from talking to, and learning from, the locals in Girona, Jason’s outlet from cycling was music.
"The only time we turned the TV on at home was to watch a bike race. Jason loved music and we'd listen to music for hours,'' Hamilton said.
"He put a lot of thought into the meaning of words and he liked all different kids of music. One night we were randomly talking about songs in our childhood and we came across Holly Valance's one hit song. We both felt chuffed when we looked her up on Instagram and found out we were more famous than her."
Jason was passionate about making cycling his career, but the sport also opened other avenues for him.
"Cycling was his tool to meet and network with people,'' Shaun McCarthy said.
“He loved meeting new people.”
Food was Jason’s other great passion. Much to the frustration of his coaches, Lowndes had a sweet tooth. Nutella, milo, chocolate and cakes were part of his diet.
"The team directors were getting up Jason a bit about eating too much at the buffets,'' Anstee said.
"At one stage they thought they had it sorted because Jason was eating immaculately and they were patting him on the back for it.
"What they didn't know that after dinner he'd go upstairs to his room and rip out three blocks of Lindt chocolate to polish off."
The Old Green Bean’s fig and hazelnut cake was Jason’s favourite.
"The Old Green Bean would order in fig and hazelnut cakes for whenever he was back in Australia and store them out the back just for him,'' Hamilton said.
"That's the sort of thing people would do for him because they knew he'd do anything for them."
It would be understandable if Jason’s Bendigo cycling friends had second thoughts about continuing their own riding careers in the wake of their great mate’s passing.
For now, it’s quite the opposite.
"Everyday I ride, Jason will be with me,'' Hucker said.
"If you're having a bad day on the bike it really doesn't matter."
"We've all been upset and there's been plenty of tears... but Jason wouldn't want us to stop riding,'' Anstee said.
"He'd be telling us to pull our heads in and keep going."
"Jason would want us to go on and make a career for ourselves like he wanted to do himself,'' Hamilton added.
Amid the shock and heartache of Lowndes’ death, McCarthy summed up the group’s thoughts best.
"It's hard to find the silver lining in this, but if there is one, it’s that Jason's message would be ‘do what you love and do it 100 per cent’.''
- Jason Lowndes’ funeral is on Saturday at the Bendigo Baptist Conference Centre in Junortoun at 11am.