HE was exceptional in everything he did.

Those were the words of Hampshire’s police chiefs today as they led the tributes to one of Southampton’s most popular officers, who died following a horrific cycle race crash.

PC Richard Phillips-Schofield, 33, passed away yesterday afternoon, 48 hours after coming off his race bike during a British Cycling event in which he was competing.

The hugely popular officer, who served at Bitterne police station, had been in a critical condition in hospital since Sunday afternoon where he was being treated for life-threatening head and chest injuries.

At stations across Hampshire today, flags were flying at half mast as the devastating news sunk in among his colleagues and friends.

Rich, who previously served in Portswood and had given ten years’ policing service in Southampton, was known for his love of cycling.

He had represented the force throughout his career, competing in events both home and abroad and winning both national and international awards.

His most recent accolade was winning two gold medals and a silver at the World Police and Fire Games last year.

On Sunday he was one of 40 cyclists competing in a race on the outdoor track at Portsmouth’s Mountbatten Centre when the accident happened before dozens of horrified onlookers.

Three ambulances and the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance were called to the scene to deal with Rich and at least two other casualties.

South Central Ambulance Service said Rich was unconscious as he was rushed to the Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth, where he is understood to have undergone emergency surgery, but his injuries were too severe to survive. A second man was treated for serious injuries at the hospital while another had minor injuries and was later discharged.

Yesterday, as Rich’s friends and colleague told of their sadness and disbelief on social networking sites, tributes were led to Rich by the force’s most senior officers.

Superintendent James Fulton, area commander for Southampton, said: “Richard was an exceptional officer.

He worked in the city for all of his ten years’ service, and was universally popular – a first class officer, thieftaker, colleague and friend.

“The whole force shares the pain of his family and friends, and at this time we remember Rich as a man who inspired so many and delivered so much.”

Chief Constable Andy Marsh competed at the World Police and Fire Games with Rich in Belfast last year.

He said: “I was proud to serve with Richard, and had the privilege of being one of the first of his colleagues to congratulate him on his gold medal when we competed together in Belfast last year.

“His service in the police was no less impressive, a first class officer, team player and friend to so many.

“He was a credit to Hampshire Constabulary and policing in many ways.

“Richard’s loss will have a huge impact on friends and colleagues across the service, not only in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight but across the UK.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends at this tragic time.”

John Apter, chairman of Hampshire Police Federation, added: “The loss of PC Phillips-Schofield has come as a great shock to us all. Policing is a family and when we lose an officer the impact is far-reaching.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Richard’s family and friends at this difficult time.”

Hampshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Simon Hayes said it was a “sad day” for the force and added: “He was well respected and professional in everything that he did.

“There is huge shock within the force at the moment and it is still very raw.

“My deepest sympathies go to his family, friends and colleagues and all our thoughts and prayers will be with them at this sad time.”