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Olympic hero Morris Foster was first Irish cyclist to ride 100 miles in less than four hours

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Morris Foster with his wife Maureen outside Buckingham Palace

Morris Foster with his wife Maureen outside Buckingham Palace

Morris Foster with his wife Maureen outside Buckingham Palace

Ulster cycling legend Morris Foster MBE, who passed away on Monday, was "worshipped" by his family.

The Olympic Games, Commonwealth Games and World Cycling Championship competitor died after a short illness.

The 83-year-old, affectionately known as 'big Mo', was born in Maghera, grew up in Randalstown and moved to Glengormley with his wife Maureen after they got married.

He was the first Irishman and fourth rider ever to cycle 100 miles in under four hours.

Mr Foster achieved that monumental feat at the Bath Road 100 Mile Time Trial, recording a time of three hours, 59 minutes and 38 seconds.

He was the dearly loved brother of the late Robert and is survived by his sister Anne, his brothers David, Hudson and Stewart, and his nieces and nephews.

His funeral service will take place on Sunday at 3pm in Duneane Presbyterian Church in Randalstown, with interment afterwards in the adjoining cemetery.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Mr Foster's brother Stewart explained that his sibling was the oldest among the family and first took up cycling through their father.

"We grew up on the family farm and our father was Scottish," he said.

"He had a shop in Glasgow and he was in Glasgow Wheelers Cycling Club in the 1920s, so it was very much a family thing.

"Our father came over here in the 1930s and he met our mother, who was from Maghera.

"They got this wee farm near Moneyglass and that's where we grew up.

"Morris joined Old Bleach Cycling Club in Randalstown when he was about 15. He worked on the farm as well.

"He moved to Belfast after meeting his wife Maureen, and they moved to Glengormley together."

He recalled that his brother used old parts to build racing bicycles for boys who wanted to take up cycling but could not afford a bike.

"He made about 15 or 20 of them, so he had a wee squadron there," Mr Foster said.

"He was very much about giving back to people through the sport.

"He was a very big character and his family worshipped him.

"When he worked as an electrician, he made sure that everything was just right.

"When he retired, somebody asked him what it was like to be retired.

"He said, 'I'll get my tea the right time now'. That's just the sort of person he was.

Mr Foster took part in his first official race in 1954, aged just 15.

He represented Ireland throughout the 1960s, competing in the Olympic Games in Mexico in 1968 and at the World Championships in Belgium and Holland.

He also took part in the Commonwealth Games in Jamaica in 1966 and Scotland in 1970.

The Northern Ireland team had one of its best ever performances in Jamaica, with Mr Foster recording a highly respectable seventh place.

He rode the Tour de l'Avenir in the early 1960s and in his pomp he claimed a stage in the British Milk Race in 1966. Mr Foster won the 1969 Tour of Ireland, claiming five stages in an incredible performance.

After retiring from competition in 1972, he moved into administration and managed many Northern Ireland and Ireland cycling teams.

He was also in charge of the Commonwealth Games cycling team from 1978.

Mr Foster was promoted to assistant team manager for the whole Northern Ireland squad in 1998 - a position he retained for many years.

He was a familiar figure at Orangefield track in Belfast, where he coached young riders.

Mr Foster was rewarded for a lifetime's dedication to cycling when he received an MBE from Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace in 2006, when he was the president of the Northern Ireland Cycling Federation.

He was accompanied to the ceremony in London by his wife Maureen, who throughout his career was at his side until her death a few years ago.

Cycling Ulster offered its condolences and said it was mourning "the death of a legend and a true gentleman".

Mr Foster's family asked that donations be given, in lieu of flowers, to the Belgian Project, which supports young Irish cycling stars and offers them a chance to compete in Belgium, via Logan's Funeral Services.

Belfast Telegraph