SCORES of Hampshire cyclists will take to the roads this morning in memory of a much-loved and respected racing cyclist who inspired generations of riders.

Teammates, family and friends of veteran cyclist Derek Witt, who was killed crossing the Itchen Bridge in Southampton, will take to the saddle to mark what would have been his 61st birthday.

The tribute charity ride will see 70 cyclists, including his twin brother Dennis, riding along the country lanes of the Meon Valley which Derek loved using.

Derek, of Swanwick Lane, died after a collision with a car when he was out riding with DHC racing team mate Pete Sneddon, last August.

Pete, who suffered severe injuries, will not be taking part in the 40-mile ride, but he and Derek’s daughters Kate and Claire will be cheering on the cyclists as they set off from the Cricketers’ Inn in Curdrige on Sunday morning, returning two hours later.

The cyclists will be raising money for BASICS Hampshire, a team of volunteer emergency doctors who respond to call outs.

The evening Derek died, two of those doctors rushed to the scene and although they were not able to save Derek, they were able to put Pete onto life support in the vital minutes after the crash.

One of Derek’s oldest friends Bob Wright said: “There isn’t a cyclist in Hampshire who didn’t know him. He would stop off on rides when he saw youngsters on bikes and give them advice on bike handling and racing.

Famous “It wasn’t just Hampshire though, he was famous for his cycling talent and knowledge throughout the country and beyond, and international riders like Sean Kelly knew, loved and respected him.”

Ride organiser David Ford, who knew Derek for 30 years, added: “Derek’s death was a shock to the whole cycling community and we all wanted to do something special to mark his birthday, to show that we still remember him.

“He was such a nice man whose two passions were his family and cycling, so what better way than getting his family and friends together to cycle the routes he most enjoyed.

“Unfortunately he loved to push us to our limits so the route we will be taking is quite hilly but that was Derek, never one to take the easy road.”

If you would like to donate in memory of Derek Witt call Jay Andrews at BASICS Hampshire on 07703 131188.