My heart bleeds for Colin's family. Reading an old SCMP feature on the man today which closed with him looking forward to the day when he would take his young son out on a proper bike for the first time was very difficult. I've been a bit gutted recently about my own teenage son's indifference to cycling, but now I think I'm glad that he's gone off it. Do I really want him out there on the ill-disciplined roads of Singapore? Or anywhere else for that matter, it's tough being a cyclist. My lad knew who Colin was, so I wonder after our family breakfast chat this morning being dominated by Col's untimely demise if he wants me out there either?
Colin was one of those inspirational figures in life. Even if you didn't know him, if you were part of the cycling community during the long periods when he lived in Singapore and Hong Kong, you didn't just know who he was, you looked up to him. Just the way he handled himself on and off the bike was an example for everybody. Quiet, stoic, humble and very, very talented.
I was lucky enough to know Colin. While we weren't the closest of friends, he was definitely influential in my development as a roadie. He was an immense but reserved figure within Anza Cycling and he helped put on races for the club to try and introduce more people to the racing side of the sport, which he loved. One of these races was "Colin's Little TT" and it was the 2007 edition where I nervously approached him to ask if it was OK as a triathlete to enter. He was very welcoming and I had a blast doing eight laps round the now-gone 5km-long Old Lim Chu Kang Rd circuit. It was my first ever bike race and so I thank Colin for giving me the opportunity. I just looked up his post-race report from that day and the humour in it brought a smile to my face.
Colin moved to Hong Kong soon after but our paths crossed a few times over the years, usually at races where we were riding in different categories, like the inaugural Tour de Bintan in 2009. While he was chasing the Cat 1 win, he still had time pre- and post-race to talk to and encourage us lesser mortals racing for Anza in the Cat 2 contest.
It was in the same race in 2012 that I had my most-memorable encounter with Colin, when I somehow found myself in the winning break with the great man during Stage 1, a 150km monster where the rolling hills just seemed relentless; Colin had famously described the parcours as "flat" in his pre-race preview, it probably was to him! Of course he and Pete Hope left me and my Confero Mavericks teammate Richard Paine for dead in the run-in that day, but I remember being in awe at the fact that I was up there competing as an equal with the mighty Colin Robertson. The fact that he was a fellow Scot no doubt added to his allure to me over the years; we're allowed to have real-life heroes you know, ones that you can interact with rather than just see on TV.
Standing on the podium that night in Bintan with him was quite surreal as was the thanks he gave to me and Richard for helping him get the yellow jersey. He kept it the next day on his way to winning the race for the first time and I had the pleasure of penning these words to open the official race report: "Colin Robertson, one of East Asia’s powerhouse amateur cyclists, finally added the Tour de Bintan to his palmares when the DirectAsia.com rider won the 2012 edition of the race on the tropical Indonesian island."
Colin had been out of action recently due to a lengthy bout of illness, and so I hadn't seen him for some time at any of the races around Southeast Asia. But I'd found out from his Team Direct Asia teammates at the Tour de Barelang last month that he was back in training and that he'd be racing again soon. I wish now he hadn't got back into training, as I wouldn't be sitting here sadly writing this. But he loved cycling, it was such a central part of his life that I'm sure he could never have given it up. I'm gutted that I won't get the chance to challenge myself against him again, or just to watch him in action, powering away from the peloton as he did so often.
Colin was also a time trial specialist, twice finishing fifth in the British TT National Championships. My cycling team, the Specialized Mavericks, had already planned to ride one of our own occasional TTs tomorrow out at Lim Chu Kang. It will now double as a tribute to the man and I'm sure it'll be a poignant moment for me when I pedal on the 2.5km section of the course that overlaps with "Colin's Little TT" circuit.