Pensioner died after bike crash

A pensioner suffered fatal head injuries when she came off her bike during a timed trial road race, an inquest heard yesterday. Patricia Pepper, a retired secretary, of Manor Road, Martlesham Heath, Suffolk, was an experienced competitor who friends described as a "rock solid, steady, safe, rider".

A pensioner suffered fatal head injuries when she came off her bike during a timed trial road race, an inquest heard yesterday.

Patricia Pepper, a retired secretary, of Manor Road, Martlesham Heath, Suffolk, was an experienced competitor who friends described as a "rock solid, steady, safe, rider".

On July 16, the 70-year-old and her husband, Michael, had travelled to Cambridgeshire to compete in the 25-mile timed event organised by the Eastern District Cycling Association.

The pair, both members of Wolsey RC, set off six minutes apart, but Mrs Pepper never made it to the finish line.

The veteran rider was knocked from her cycle during a collision with another competitor, Paul Russell.

Mr Russell, 36, from Wisbech, told police he could not recall making contact with Mrs Pepper or her bicycle before they were both thrown from their cycles onto the road.

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He said that he had spotted Mrs Pepper, who was wearing a yellow and green skinsuit, as he travelled at around 28 to 30 miles per hour. He estimated her speed at around 15 to 18 miles per hour and manoeuvred to overtake. As he checked over his shoulder that it was safe to pull out he was thrown from his bike.

"I have a slight recollection of being aware of something to my left," he said. "I don't recall any part of me or my cycle coming into contact with the other rider. The next thing I knew I was on the ground."

Mr Russell, a member of the Fat Birds Cycle Club, had been disciplined in the past for riding "head down" in a road race, a practice banned by the sport's governing body, the inquest heard.

Qualified first-aider Layton Lewis and his wife, Karen, stopped at the scene to help Mrs Pepper, but she did not regain consciousness.

Mrs and Mrs Lewis both gave evidence that Mr Russell had claimed not to have seen Mrs Pepper, but conceded that the man had been confused, pale and seemingly in shock.

Mrs Pepper was taken by ambulance to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, in King's Lynn, and transferred to the neuro-surgery department at Adden-brooke's Hospital, in Cambridge, where she died nine days later.

A post-mortem examination revealed her cause of death to be a significant head injury.

Recording a verdict of misadventure at St Margaret's House, King's Lynn, coroner William Knowles acknowledged Mrs Pepper as an experienced rider and added: "It is not my job to decide if anyone is to blame."