"HE was our hero" - this is how York-born Olympic cyclist Pete Smith will be remembered by family and friends.

The words come from his step son Mark Steel and best friend and Olympic team mate John Watson, also from York.

Pete, 76, died on March 26 in Leeds General Infirmary four days after a cycling accident near York. His funeral took place yesterday (Tuesday) at York Crematorium with donations in aid of Yorkshire Air Ambulance.

An inquest is expected to take place into his death at a future date.

Yesterday, cyclists paid their respects by cycling in front of the hearse from Pete's home in Fulford to the crematorium in Bishopthorpe.

The family said Pete's shirt from the 1968 Olympics in Mexico was draped over the coffin.

York Press: Pete Smith's Team GB cycling shirt from Mexico Olympics in 1968Pete Smith's Team GB cycling shirt from Mexico Olympics in 1968

He leaves his partner of 33 years Margaret, step son Mark, and children Amanda and Christopher.

Margaret said Pete's loss was "very raw" and described him as "a great bloke" with whom she had shared a very happy life and many holidays abroad.

She said: "We had a brilliant time together and lots of happy memories. I have three photo albums which brings all the memories back."

She said Pete was very humble and modest about his cycling achievements which included representing Britain in the 1968 Olympics in Mexico.

Step son Mark echoed this and said: "He was one of the most understated men I'd ever met in my life and yet so famous in the cycling world."

John Watson, who met Pete as a teenager and was part of the British Olympic time trial team with Pete in 1968, said: "He was my hero."

York Press: Pete, left, with his York team mates before heading off to Mexico for the Olympics in 1968 and in competition in MexicoPete, left, with his York team mates before heading off to Mexico for the Olympics in 1968 and in competition in Mexico

He added: "I met Pete when I started cycling at 18 and he was 21 and he took me under his wing. He was my immediate best friend and training partner."

John said the pair trained in all weathers and terrains together over the years. Up until his death, Pete was regularly going out three times a week on his bike. He had been a member of the Clifton Cycling Club for many years.

Mark said later this year, a 40-mile cycle ride in Pete's honour would take place from Knavesmire. Also, a memorial stone would be placed at the accident site just off the Rufforth to Wetherby Road, a popular route with cyclists.

He said the family was devastated at the loss. "Words can't put into place how you feel." And he shared John's verdict on Pete, that he was his hero as well.

He added: "We are absolutely devastated. Mum is lost without Pete, the love of her life. I look at Pet as my dad; he’s taught me so much in life and loosing him has changed all our lives and we have a loss that can never be filled."

Pete worked as a carpenter, although spent a short spell in the early 1970s as a professional cyclist. His cycling achievements were many.

He was one of three members of Clifton Cycling Club to represent Great Britain in the four-man 100km team time trial at the 1968 Mexico Olympics - alongside his friend John Watson and the late Roy Cromack of Bishopthorpe. They came tenth in the competition. In December that year, Pete attended a reception held by the Queen for the entire GB Olympic squad at Buckingham Palace - and treasured the invitation letter.

York Press: Pete's success reported in newspapers and magazinesPete's success reported in newspapers and magazines

He also led Clifton CC to the team title in the British Best All-Rounder competition in 1965, 1966 and 1967, and was again a member of the winning team in 1969.

He broke the British 50-mile record twice in 1967 and took the 100-mile record in 1969. He was also a member of Clifton squads that broke team competition records at 25, 50 and 100 miles and 12 hours.

Pete was also an accomplished road race rider, winning the mountains classification in the 1968 Tour of Morocco.

He turned professional in 1970, and rode in turn for the Clive Stuart, TI-Carlton, Falcon-Tighe, Bantel and TI-Raleigh teams.

John said: "Pete was always the strongest rider in the many events we rode, irrespective of all the different riders who tried out for the various teams.

“He was never a 'show boater', he’d just do longer turns on the front – no problem, and he would never take credit from cycling reporters or the media at the finish.

“Pete was a class act in every way.

York Press: Pete Smith, second from left, at the 1968 Olympics in MexicoPete Smith, second from left, at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico

“He was old school cycling - starting with the Clarion and the CTC, before joining the Clifton CC. Apart from when he was a professional at Clive Stuart and then Raleigh, he always worked full-time, as a joiner. He worked for a company based 14 miles from his home in York; of course, he rode there and back every day, before coming out training.

“I could write so much about Pete’s career but will single out one week-end in the early season of ’69 which epitomises his legendary status.

“We travelled to Lancashire on Saturday, and in the afternoon rode a 60-mile road race in which we finished first and second. We then drove down to Essex, and on the Sunday he won the Essex Grand Prix; I was second. After the race we made the five-hour journey back to York, arriving home after 11pm. Next morning he was back at work at 8am, having ridden there in pouring rain.

“This was the legend that was Pete Smith."