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Sean Kelly, Alex Dowsett and Russell Downing attend
Saturday saw the ninth annual Braveheart Cycling Fund dinner and a total of £35,000 raised to support ambitious young Scottish riders with training and racing costs in 2012.
The evening included the announcement of Braveheart Rider of the Year, with junior world sprint champion John Paul proving a popular and deserving winner.
Paul accepted the award from one of the special guests, Team Sky’s Alex Dowsett. Recently accepted to the British Cycling Academy, Paul thanked the fund for its help and support in 2011 and said he was “excited for the future.”
Paul, 18, who also took the European junior title this season, is following in the wheel-marks of his fellow Scottish sprinters Sir Chris Hoy and Craig MacLean, with a similar stocky build to his fellow Highlander.
He told the 390 guests at the Park Hotel in Kilmarnock that training with Hoy - who is patron to the Braveheart Fund, but had to miss the dinner because it clashed with the World Cup in Astana - is “like being at Manchester United with Wayne Rooney.” While the London Olympics will come too soon for Paul, he hopes to compete with Hoy at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014.
Along with Dowsett, the evening’s other special guests were Sean Kelly, Russell Downing, Matt Stephens and Ian Stannard. Downing, who has not been offered a contract with Team Sky for 2012, said that he hopes to announce his new team “in the next few days.”
The auction again provided much of the funding for next year’s activities, with Mark Cavendish’s signed and personalised world champion’s jersey topping the bidding at £2,500. In fact, Cavendish’s rainbow jersey raised a total of £4,800 - as bidding peaked at £2,500, it was revealed that Cavendish had donated two. The two remaining bidders agreed to pay £2,400 to go home with one each.
Other popular items included Robert Millar’s signed TVM shirt, and a day in the Lampre team car on a stage of the Giro d’Italia - both items going for £2,300.
Once again the entertainment also proved popular, with Dynamo the Magician, X-Factor contender Laura White and Braveheart regulars Celtic Spirit. Earlier, the fundraising ride saw a capacity field of 500 take to the roads of Ayrshire. And the final unofficial award of the evening, presented to last man standing, produced a podium of dinner organiser, Alan Miller, as third,with Dowsett placing second and Sven Thiele of Hot Chillee, who reportedly stuck around until the hotel began serving breakfast, declared winner.
After once again living up to its reputation as one of the highlights of cycling’s social season, Miller’s co-organiser, Brian Smith, has promised that next year’s 10th anniversary event will be the biggest and best yet.
To make a donation to the fund, just click here.