TRIBUTES have been paid to a world record-holding athlete from Rawtenstall who lost his battle with Parkinson’s disease.

Multi-talented John North, described as a ‘legend’ in the cycling community, passed away last Friday, aged 70.

He entered the Guinness Book of Records in 1978 when he completed the 271-mile Pennine Way cyclo-cross in two days, eight hours and 45 minutes.

His nephew, David Taylor, said he hoped he would be ‘riding in paradise’.

He said: “He represented Great Britain at various cycling events and his records are something he was exceptionally proud of.

“He was a prolific mechanic who worked for Lancashire police and he represented them at athletics as well.

“He cycled right up until October last year at the age of 69. He’s had problems for 12 months with heart conditions, his artifical hips and Parkinson’s and the associated trauma.

“But still, even in rehab, he was talking about getting back on his bike. His Pennine Way record is unlikely ever to be broken.”

Mr North, of Margaret Street, started his career working with his father at J North and Sons butchers in Burnley Road, Rawtenstall, before working for years at Karrimor in Accrington.

He represented Clayton-le-Moors Harriers at fell running and won the 1980 Three Peaks cyclo-cross in a time of three hours and 16 seconds.

Mr Taylor added: “He possessed a rare and improbable combination of being both as hard as nails with a steely determination to win, but always retaining respect and acknowledging and advising his fellow competitors’ efforts.

“He was truly one of life’s gentlemen and a lovely man. He will be sadly missed by all who had the pleasure of meeting him.”

A statement from the Yorkshire Cyclo-Cross Association said: “We are sad to hear of the passing of John North. RIP John, a gentleman and a legend.”

A celebration of life for Mr North, who never married, will be held at the Chapel of Rest, St James Street, Rawtenstall, from 12.30pm tomorrow (Friday), followed by burial at Accrington Crematorium and a wake at St James’s Social Club on Burnley Road, Rawtenstall.