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Keith Bentley - A tribute

Keith Bentley, who died on 25th November 2022 aged 89 years, leaves his two sons Russell and Darren, his stepdaughters Jill and Rachel and stepson Phil, several grandchildren and great grandchildren and his sister in law Janice. Keith’s family organised a private funeral for him at the South Leicestershire Crematorium on 22 December. This was followed by an open service at the Moat Street Methodist Church to celebrate his life. The service was attended by a vast array of those who knew him, including several members of the local cycling community. In his fulsome and amusing tribute to his father Russell Bentley highlighted Keith’s love of a range of outdoor activities, his support for Leicester Tigers RFC and, of course, his lifelong passion for cycling,

Keith, and his brother Roger, shared a love of cycling from their boyhood years when the Newry Knobbly Knees CC was established by six lads from Newry Road on the Saffron Estate. This was followed by the establishment in 1952 of the Phoenix RC, a sub-group of the Ravenhurst Youth Club. Their rides went to far flung places in Warwickshire, the favourite being the ‘scrumpy run’ to Stratford on Avon. In addition there were the road races for the Phoenix RC, organised by Mick Stevens from the Youth Club, with the support of Needhams bike shop.

National Service in the REME from 1954 to 1956 brought a temporary end to these boyhood high jinks, which were, however, quickly resumed on return to civilian life. As well as cycling, Keith’s love of the outdoors included other activities, such as walking and camping. However, cycling was always his main sporting pursuit and marriage to his first wife, Brenda did not diminish Keith’s the appetite for it. Indeed, if anything, it grew even stronger after Brenda untimely death in 1997; with the fellowship involved no doubt providing much solace for Keith.

His undiminished warmth and cheerfulness made him a highly regarded friend of riders from many of the local clubs. He particularly enjoyed the company of Ratae members on the regular club runs, to places such as Margaret’s café Redmile, where he and his brother Roger often rode on the front in what he called the Bentley Bus!

His main love, however, was racing. He was a leading local time triallist and he enjoyed friendly competition with club mate Bob Perrett. They had a private challenge concerning who would be first to go under the hour for a 25 mile time trial. One year Keith arranged for them to compete in 25 mile time trial in the F1 in Bedfordshire, which was regarded as a particularly fast course. However, it was also famous for its Spartan facilities. Toilets were the nearest bush and the results board was put up at a field at the end of the course. Bob was off before Keith and recorded a time of 1 hour, 1 minute and 56 seconds. However, the joy that Keith felt in coming in at 59 minutes and 37 seconds was short lived when Bob’s time was amended to 59 minutes and 56 seconds. So, although Keith had finally gone under the hour and had recorded a faster time than Bob, Bob was the first between the two of them to go under the hour by being pushed off a few minutes before Keith!!!!!

In a similar competitive vein, many will remember clinging on the back of the club run group as Keith & Bob Perrett did ‘bit and bit’ on the front, for example, along the straight flat road between Brinklow and Bretford on the way to Church Lawford. The refreshments at the garden centre café, were never more welcome. Riders were usually served by the amiable Elizabeth, whose obvious Welsh ancestry led Keith to always refer to her affectionately as Blodwin!

Keith loved an adventure and in 1988 he and boyhood friend, Peter Fewkes, organised a trip to follow the Tour de France. They travelled to Orange overnight on a non-stop coach and rode up many of the mountains in the Alps and Pyrenees that featured in the race that year. With such an impressive history Keith was first to sign up for the short trip that six Ratae members made, to La Ville Davy near St. Helen in Brittany, to watch Le Tour. This included a 70 mile round trip to Cap Frehal, to witness Mark Cavendish secure his first stage victory at the end of the fifth stage of the race in 2008.

Not surprisingly, Keith was always up for a cycling challenge. However, an unfortunate cycling accident in 2010 on an earlier club run meant that Keith missed the Tri-Vets 100 organised by Bob Perrett for June that year. Not to be disheartened, he organised his own 100 mile ride later in the year. This did not go without incident as lack of attention by one of the participants led to him falling off and breaking his right clavicle! In true cycling spirit, the ride continued after the ambulance had left.

All those who were fortunate enough to have known Keith will be aware of the wider contribution that he made to the club. At one time the club rules stated the role of president could only be held for three consecutive years by the same person. This meant that Paul Baulch had to stand down in 2013. Consequently, Keith volunteered his services as club president, holding the office for one year, so that his old friend, Paul Baulch, could stand again the following year. In addition, Keith was especially well known at the annual club dinner, where, as keeper of the club trophies, he enjoyed presenting them to the various winners. He particularly relished awarding the Moose Trophy, which of course no-one wanted. However, to be fair, in the year that he fell off his training bike in his garage at home, he did award it to himself!

His later life was tinged with much sadness as he lost his brother, Roger, in August 2019 and second wife Barbara in June 2022. His own demise in November that year, leaves a void in the hearts of all his family. He will also be sorely missed by those outside the family circle who knew him, especially by the local cycling fraternity in general and members of the Ratae RC in particular.

Contributions were provided by Bob Perrett, Peter Fewkes and Sadie Garratt

, and were edited into this tribute by Kevin Commons – 23 December 2022.

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