The family of cyclist Alex Jones have revealed the “devastation and ongoing pain” that a sudden cardiac death leaves behind.
Alex, a national-level time trialist, died unexpectedly while riding his bike in March 2019, after suffering a cardiac arrest just 20 minutes after setting off from home.
The 30-year-old’s sudden death has deeply impacted his family, who are now doing everything in their power to raise awareness of hidden heart defects, and aim to fund cardiac screenings in Alex’s memory.
His mum Audrey told Cycling Weekly: “I can’t tell you the devastation, the shock. If you were to imagine a member of your family going out for a pleasant cycle ride - all the plans were made for what we were going to do when he got back - and they just don’t come back.
“For me the main thing is to safeguard your life. Cycling, or whatever your sport is, may be everything to you at the moment, and you can’t imagine anything else, but there is more of a life outside of that.
“If Alex had known what was going to happen to him, he certainly wouldn’t have gone out that day.”
Alex had gone out for a ride on one of his favourite routes in Conwy, North Wales near his home, on March 30, 2019, when he collapsed 20 minutes into the ride.
His mum said his family may never really know what caused Alex’s cardiac arrest, but they are encouraging cyclists to undergo a heart screening, like those offered by charity Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY).
According to the charity, 12 young people (under the age of 35) die suddenly each week in the UK from an undiagnosed heart condition, 80 per cent of those occurring with no prior symptoms.
For every 300 people tested by CRY, one will be identified with a potentially life-threatening condition.
While hoping to raise awareness of hidden heart conditions, Alex’s family have also been fundraising with the aim of raising enough to fund a CRY screening day for 100 young people in North Wales.
The campaign has raised a staggering £8,500 so far. You can contribute and find out more information here.
CRY now tests around 32,000 people aged 13-35 across the UK every year, to identify hidden heart defects to prevent these sudden deaths.
While raising awareness of heart conditions, Audrey said they don't want to deter people from riding their bikes. The benefits of cycling (and sport in general) are numerous, both physically and mentally. The aim is to encourage young sportspeople to take advantage of an opportunity to attend a screening as these screenings can and do save lives.
“If some irregularity does come up, it doesn’t mean everyone who’s identified with something has to give up cycling," said Audrey.
Alex had been an outstanding time trialist, having taken third place in the Welsh TT Championships in 2018 and a top-20 finish in the National 50 that year.
In the wake of his death friends paid tribute to the digital marketing executive, who previously ran cycling distributors VAM Performance alongside Audrey.
Welsh cyclist and former national hill climb champion, Dan Evans, said: “As a friend he was thoughtful, supportive, always enthusiastic but the bit of Alex that always stood out was his positivity.
“His cup wasn’t just half full, it was filled to the brim!”
Audrey added: “Alex was kind and generous, witty and humorous, with a wide irresistible smile, an infectious giggle and great sense of adventure.
“He was always fun to be around but he was also principled, dedicated & committed to achieving the best he could.
“He gave us so much and, as he learnt from us in childhood we, in turn, learned values and principles from the adult Alex that inspire and keep us going. We had a fantastic family life and are so fortunate to have been his parents.
“His life has been short but it was a very full one and we are incredibly proud of our lovely son.”
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Alex Ballinger is editor of BikeBiz magazine, the leading publication for the UK cycle industry, and is the former digital news editor for CyclingWeekly.com. After gaining experience in local newsrooms, national newspapers and in digital journalism, Alex found his calling in cycling, first as a reporter, then as news editor responsible for Cycling Weekly's online news output, and now as the editor of BikeBiz. Since pro cycling first captured his heart during the 2010 Tour de France (specifically the Contador-Schleck battle) Alex covered three Tours de France, multiple editions of the Tour of Britain, and the World Championships, while both writing and video presenting for Cycling Weekly. He also specialises in fitness writing, often throwing himself into the deep end to help readers improve their own power numbers. Away from the desk, Alex can be found racing time trials, riding BMX and mountain bikes, or exploring off-road on his gravel bike. He’s also an avid gamer, and can usually be found buried in an eclectic selection of books.
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