Former Irish triathlete killed in UK bicycle race
Former international triathlete Junior Heffernan has been killed in a bicycle race in England. The 23-year-old represented Ireland up to and including world and European championship level.
However, he had turned to cycling in the past 18 months and was riding in a professional race on Sunday when he was killed by an oncoming car.
He was riding the Severn Bridge Road Race near Olveston, Gloucestershire, when he collided with a car on the third of 10 laps. The race, which was run by Bristol Road Club under the auspices of British Cycling, was halted immediately by the organisers.
Mr Heffernan, who was based in Yelverton, Devon, but was a member of Carrick-on-Suir Triathlon Club when competing in that sport, was pronounced dead at the scene.
His father was from Carrick-on-Suir and Mr Heffernan had represented Ireland at junior level from his mid-teens. He was more recently a member of the UK-based Herbalife cycling team and Sunday’s race was his first with that squad.
In a statement, Triathlon Ireland extended its condolences to his family and friends.
“Junior was one of the first members of Triathlon Ireland’s junior elite programme representing Ireland at numerous international events.
“He transitioned to bike racing after a hip injury affected his running and by all accounts was showing great promise on the UK and French bike racing scene. Junior’s death is a huge loss and we are deeply saddened to hear the news.”
Mr Heffernan was to ride the PO Ferries Tour of the North in Ulster at Easter and was also planning to ride the eight-day An Post Rás in May.
His cycling team, Herbalife, said in a statement he had joined its ranks after competing in France last year and was an exceptional climber.
“He was a young man with an enormous talent and enthusiasm for bike racing. His outgoing personality and infectious nature meant that for the short time that his team-mates knew him he was welcomed and well liked by all and the team were excited by the prospect of seeing him race.”
British Cycling said it was conducting an inquiry into the crash and was working to support his team and those who organised the race. It was also fully co-operating with an investigation into the matter being carried out by Avon and Somerset constabulary.
Mr Heffernan competed in the junior European duathlon championships and the junior European and world triathlon championships in 2007. He continued at that level for Ireland through to the 2009 season. However, he then suffered hip injuries and turned to competitive cycling.