JASON Lowndes has been remembered as an upbeat, people person with an infectious smile and uncanny ability to lift the spirits of those around him.
More than 300 cyclists gathered at De Soza Park in Buninyong on Thursday to dedicate a lap of honour to Lowndes, who was struck by a car and killed late last month.
The tribute came at the start of day two of the Cycling Australia National Road Championships being staged in Ballarat.
A reflective and respectful group of riders included a stronghold of friends, former team-mates and family, including Lowndes dad Graeme and sisters Rebecca and Meaghan, and a virtual who’s who of Australian cycling.
His former team-mate Brenton James, who organised the tribute, said Jason would have been looking down from heaven with pride at the great turnout.
“To have all the people from the Australian National Road Championships and others come together on a morning like this to remember our mate and close friend, who would have been racing here this week, is fantastic,” he said.
“It was great to see so many teams and individuals and some of the public come to remember such a great guy.
“It was just a nice easy casual ride, something Jason would have been doing this morning – riding and his bike and going for a coffee.
“It’s a great way to remember him.”
Lowndes and Jones were to be teammates again in 2017 at British continental cycling team JLT-Condor.
Jones, whose biggest wins include the 2016 Tour of Korea, said 2018 would be a year-long dedication to his great mate.
“He was such a tremendous young bloke, with the biggest smile on his face,” he said.
“He always had time for everybody – he lit up the room.
“I’ve already done two races with a black armband on and I’ll continue riding in his honour.”
Lowndes was tragically killed when he was hit by a car on a training ride in Mandurang on December 22.
The 23-year-old had entered to ride in this week’s national championships.
Many taking part in the ride, including his father Graeme and 2000 Olympic madison gold medallist Scott McGrory, used the ride as not just as a tribute, but a chance to push an important safety message.
McGrory, who also won silver in the madison at the 1996 world championships, implored drivers to be more conscious of cyclists on Australian roads.
“It’s all about road safety and tolerance on the roads,” he said.
“Australia has become a very scary place to ride a bike or be on the roads if you are not in a truck or a car.
“That’s the big message out of this; we really need to increase tolerance and road safety for all road users in Australia.”
There to pay their respects was a strong bunch of riders from Lowndes’ home Bendigo and District Cycling Club.
President Syd Anstee said the much-loved club member was a friend to all, whose stamp on life transcended cycling.
“Jason wasn’t just there for cycling, he was there for the broader community, trying to help everyone,” he said.
“There are plenty of stories about Jason, he was a very likable character and just a genuine nice bloke.
“Talking to friends the other day, I couldn’t find anyone to compare him to – he was an individual – but saying that you could not have met a nicer person.
“It’s one of those things in life that someone who is so good to everybody is not going to be here to help everyone anymore.”