Pete Kennaugh pays tribute to late Junior Tour of Wales founder John Richards

Former JTOW mountains winner and podium finisher praises warm-hearted man who set the benchmark

Dan Martin with John Richards Junior Tour of Wales
John Richards presents Dan Martin with the leader's jersey in 2004
(Image credit: Ron Roach / Junior Tour of Wales)

Junior Tour of Wales creator John Richards was "one of those characters and personalities that leaves an imprint on you", Pete Kennaugh has told Cycling Weekly.

"You just remember him," the former national champion and Team Sky Tour de France veteran added. "He was a real warm-hearted person."

Richards's passing, aged 83, was announced a week ago by Welsh Cycling. As well as serving on the Welsh Cycling executive committee for many years and also commissairing races, Richards inaugurated the Junior Tour of Wales in 1981. It has since become an icon of junior racing in Britain, with riders such as David Millar, Geraint Thomas and Dan Martin among those who have either won it or finished on the podium. 

Kennaugh said the Junior Tour was "where the passion for cycling was ignited". He rode it three times in total, having been given special dispensation aged 15 to ride in the junior category, and he won the King of the Mountains classification and came second overall in 2006. 

"It's just turned out to be the benchmark," Kennaugh says of the JTOW. "Back when I was racing it was huge. It was probably the biggest race of the year. We did a few trips to Europe, but still for a lot of the guys it was all about the Tour of Wales, and getting a result.

He added: "I've just got really good childhood memories from going there… it was really sort of where the passion for cycling was ignited."

The 33-year-old, who now works as a DS at the Continental Trinity Racing team as well as on ITV's Tour de France coverage, described the JTOW as the starting point when it comes to looking at the form of potential young signings.

"It's a go-to, in terms of results," he says. "You know, if someone's in the top three in the Tour of Wales, or has won a stage, it says a lot about the rider."

Current JTOW organiser Richard Hopkins said he owed Richards a great deal personally, describing him as quiet and humble, "Totally the antithesis of somebody who you think might be organising a very big bike race.

"One thing that was very apparent about John is that he did always perceive this as an international cycle race," Hopkins said. "So the ambition and the scope that he had for the race was there right from the beginning."

Richards leaves behind a wife Keri, a stepson and two daughters.

Thank you for reading 20 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1