A TOP cycling champion described as a “gentle giant” has died after a violent incident in the street near his home.
The family and workmates of 42-year-old Ray Eden have been left distraught by his tragic death, three days after he suffered serious head injuries in an alleged assault just as he was setting off for work last Friday morning.
Some of his organs have already been donated for use in transplants.
Ray, who was also a keen oarsman with Doncaster Rowing Club, won the national 100-mile time-trial cycling championship in 1995 at only his second attempt, and the same year represented Great Britain four times in stage racing.
Dave Brailsford, the current GB Olympic cycling team chief, was one of dozens of people from across the UK and Europe to pay tribute to him.
Police are still seeking witnesses to the incident near Ray’s home in Moat Croft, Scawthorpe, at 7.30am on Friday which led to his death later in hospital on Monday.
A local man has been arrested and charged.
Ray leaves a widow, Gail, and son, Finn, who are also keen rowers at the Hexthorpe Flatts boathouse.
He had worked for Rotherham specialist cycle manufacturers Planet X since the company was formed in the mid-1990s.
Andy Brookes, friend and joint owner of Templeborough-based Planet X, said Ray single-handedly ran the company’s warehouse when it was based in Carcroft, processing orders, sending them out, and overseeing customer services.
The company moved to Rotherham several years ago.
Mr Brookes said: “As a young man he went down to London to start a new life. When he first went he was quite unfit, but he got a job riding courier bikes. That is how he got started in cycling. He had a massive chest and great lungs, which were perfect for cycling.
“Ray had a huge personality and his death has left a large hole here. We told everyone on Monday that things were not looking too good and the atmosphere has been silent ever since.
“Everyone here is absolutely stunned. Ray was a big man, 6ft 2ins tall, 16 stone, and all muscle. But most of all he was kind and big hearted.”
Mrs Eden was too upset to talk, but issued a statement which read: “He was an outstanding husband, father, son, son-in-law, brother-in-law and friend, whose love, kindness and sense of friendship will remain in the hearts of everyone he knew.
“Ray was an extremely talented and keen sportsman who strove to be the best he could be. He was well known as a national cycling champion and was extremely proud to represent his country and Planet X Bikes, for whom he worked for 17 years.
“He was also an enthusiastic member of Doncaster Rowing Club in which he trained and competed along with his son and myself.
“Ray will leave a huge hole in the lives of so many people. He touched the hearts of everyone who met him and he will live on in the happy memories he gave to others.
“I take some comfort from the fact he believed in organ donation, and that was one of the most generous gifts he could give to come out of this tragedy.
“It took me a long time to find the love of my life but most of all I have lost my lifelong soulmate, best friend and husband, and my son has lost a great, inspirational father.”
Ray is understood to have been unconscious when he was taken to Doncaster Royal Infirmary on Friday and had been in a critical condition over the weekend.
A police spokesman said: “His condition deteriorated earlier this week and he was pronounced dead on Monday.
“Anyone with information is urged to call South Yorkshire Police on 0114 220 2020 quoting incident 181 of March 18, or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.”
Luke Jolly, aged 24, of Moat Croft, Scawthorpe, was charged with inflicting grievous bodily harm before Mr Eden’s death. He is due to appear at Doncaster Crown Court again next Tuesday.
Doncaster assistant coroner Mark Beresford yesterday adjourned the inquest into Mr Eden’s death and released his body for burial.