Tributes paid to teenage cycling star Lewis Balyckyi

18-year-old killed in collision with van

Tributes have been paid to Lewis Balyckyi, a teenage cycling champion who was killed in a collision with a van this week.

The 18-year-old, from Walton-le-Dale, Lancashire, was the 2008 national youth circuit race champion and was due to join a French semi-professional team next month. He'd been tipped to take part in the 2012 Olympics.

He died after sustaining severe head injuries in a crash with a Ford Transit on North Road in Bretherton, just a few miles from his home, at 5pm on Tuesday.

Speaking to the Press Association, Lewis's father Kevin described his son as "every parent's dream", saying he never had a frown on his face and was always laughing. Mr Balyckyi said family and friends had "been left with a massive hole in our lives that will never be filled" but that Lewis had "died doing what he loved".

"From the age of eight he raced his cycle all over the country, discovering a flair for winning that inspired his competitors to push themselves harder than they ever thought possible," said Mr Balyckyi. "He was always down to earth and willing to help and give advice to whoever asked for it, even to his own detriment."

A tribute posted by British Cycling on their website said: "It's with great sadness that we've learnt of the death of Lewis Balyckyi in a cycling accident on the road on Tuesday evening. Lewis, who was until recently a member of the British Cycling Talent Team, was just 18 years old and a rider of great promise. The thoughts of everyone at British Cycling are with his family and friends."

Lewis rode for Teamwallis-CHH, a Preston-based development squad. On the team's website, boss Martin Wallis said: 'Lewis was the inspiration for myself to start the team. He was a great talent, friend and all-round good guy. We're all poorer for his passing away."

The John Ibbotson Fund, who were behind Lewis's planned move to France, said: "We were all looking forward to supporting him to fulfil his dream of racing on the Continent with a French team. Our thoughts and sympathies are with his family and friends at this time."

Plans are afoot to hold a memorial ride for Lewis. Bradley Wiggins is rumoured to be among those taking part. On Twitter, he said: "Just heard the news that a young lad was killed whilst out cycling just round the corner from me. Sad, sad news."

Police have not released details of the crash. The driver of the van has not been arrested. Sergeant Gareth Hill, of Lancashire Constabulary, said: "The investigation into this collision is continuing and I'd ask anybody who witnessed it to contact police." Anyone with information should call 08451 253545 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.

Posting on local news website Thisislancashire.com, jon626537 said: "I live directly outside where the accident happened and it's surprising that this hasn't happened sooner due to the behaviour of drivers along the road.

"Lewis's death could have been avoided if preventative measures such as traffic calming devices had been put in place as requested many times before. Ironically, there's been an accident today (19 January) in the exact same location in which a vehicle crashed into a police car that was parked whilst continuing to investigate the accident."

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