Family and friends of popular cyclist Gary Woodward have paid tribute to a dedicated sportsman who loved to be on his bike.

Mr Woodward, who lived in Braydon, near Minety, died at the Great Western Hospital, Swindon, on July 7 after collapsing with a cardiac arrest on June 20.

He was often seen cycling around the county’s roads and was found unconscious at the side of Blacklands Road, in Flaxlands, near Royal Wootton Bassett.

The 68-year-old was a member of Chippenham Wheelers and worked as a panel beater, repairing car bodywork at local garages.

As a cyclist he competed in races all over the country, coming 4th in the men’s British Best All-Rounder (BBAR) competition in 1978.

The same year he also led a Chippenham Wheelers Team, which included team members Stan Mills and Keith Wright, to second place in the BBAR.

And in 1978 he won a national silver medal for a 12 hour time trial.

Mr Woodward, who later worked as a charity worker, used to cycle twice a day, before work and after work, as well as Sundays.

His ex-wife Jackie Woodward, of Dunstan Close, Calne, remembers getting up at 2.30am to drive to races across the country.

She said: “I think he used to cycle as a kid, but he thought ‘I ought to take up a hobby’ and he just loved it. He went doing what he absolutely loved.

“He started cycling when our son was born. Duane was born in May and Gary started cycling in June, that was 1967. I think he was very well-known in all the cycling clubs locally.

“He was popular, but he was a private person. He was very generous, he never had a bad word to say about anyone and he would help people if he could.”

Mr Woodward was made a life-long member of the Chippenham Wheelers in recognition of his performance nationally.

Club chairman Andy Cook, who joined the Chippenham Wheelers in 1975 when Mr Woodward was at the top of his game, said he was a prolific rider.

He said: “I went on to race for Great Britain, but none of it would have happened if not for Gary taking me out when I was a kid.

“When Gary started he didn’t really know what he was doing and then someone sat down with him and started to talk to him about the sport.

“That was a turning point, because they realised that a lot of those time trials were held in the morning. What he did was get up early and get his ride in before work.

“That got his body clock used to making the effort at those times, that’s the level of dedication he had.”