JOHN Rawnsley's friends tried and failed to get him an OBE in 2009 for his services to cycling (and athletics).

However, leaving aside what can sometimes be a politically-motivated appointment, 'Mr Three Peaks', who died aged 82 on Christmas Day, was honoured instead by his sport and indeed his sports council.

His pal Philip Helliwell read out the eulogy at a packed St Mary's & St Monica's Church for his funeral in Cottingley, near Bingley, and said: "John was recognised by British Cycling when he was inducted into their first Hall of Fame (there were 50 initial inductees in 2009) along with such names as Chris Boardman, Barry Hoban and Tom Simpson.

"British Cycling later recognised his achievements by presenting him with a further prestigious award: the Gold Badge of Honour.

"He was immensely proud of these awards, and he had other accolades. In 1992, he was voted Sportsman of the Year by the Sports Council for Yorkshire and Humberside.

"In 1993, he received a memorial award from the Yorkshire Cycling Federation, and in February 2013 he received their lifetime achievement award (only the second to be given)."

Rawnsley is however, almost inseparable from the hardest cyclo-cross race in the world - the Three Peaks, which are Ingleborough, Pen-y-Ghent and Whernside.

Helliwell said: "His fame revolves around the Three Peaks - the clue is in his e-mail address, john@3peakscyclocross - but his reach and achievements went well beyond this.

"He mentored countless aspiring cyclists to both road and off-road successes. He has done his time on committees, such as the Yorkshire Cyclo-Cross Association for over 40 years and was their president (for over 20 years) - a practical role which involves organising races, events and the annual prize-giving function.

"Further, he was involved in the national cyclo-cross organisation and brought both the National Championships and National Trophy events to Bradford (at Peel Park)."

Disgraced former Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong's book was called It's Not About The Bike, but it most certainly was for Bingley-based John, who also had a cottage in Bishopdale.

His son may have been put off from riding bikes for 27 years until he was 44 (Philip, nicknamed Reckless Two, preferred motorbikes during this period), but John ('Reckless One') used cycling as a metaphor for life, encouraging his children and grandchildren to persevere with their cycling to show that hard work will bring rewards.

Helliwell added: "For John it was definitely all about the bike. He was a great man, a consummate cyclist, a commissaire, a randonneur (long-distance cyclist), a grimpeur (climber).

"He loved climbing hills, although in latter years these became a source of dismay for him.

"John loved getting out on the fells, either to run or cycle. Like many of us, it was his way of winding down or getting rid of the tensions that build up in life.

"Brigitte (John's wife) says he was like a new man when he got back from these trips. He was an excellent athlete, both running (for Bingley Harriers) and cycling (for Bradford Road Cycling Club).

"We tend to forget the younger man when we see people in later years as age erodes physique and abilities.

"Indeed, John found these diminishing powers hard to bear. In his late sixties, he couldn't understand how his Three Peaks time was going up year on year and how the hills made him so breathless.

"In the end, he bought an electric bike, which I guess was done with a heavy heart."

As for The Three Peaks, it is not called the world's hardest cyclo-cross race for nothing.

It attracts about 1,000 entrants annually and John admitted that he found it hard to whittle that down to 500, saying: "There are an awful lot of disappointed people but we have to get a blend of newcomers and regulars."

Helliwell said: "He pioneered and organised the race with Brigitte for 50 years.

"The organisation for each race starts just after the last one and involves negotiating with police and landowners around the route, as well as all the bureaucracy surrounding the event. It is difficult to give a true impression of the scale of effort required to run this race.

"He won the inaugural event in 1961, which wasn't without controversy (the race, not the winner). He has the most completions, having been round on his bike 45 times.

"Incidentally he has completed the Three Peaks over 100 times, either running, cycling or walking.

"The Three Peaks in the early days were much harder than now as many here will remember.

"There were no paved paths to run/cycle on - at best there were grassy trods, but there was a lot of bog and slime to cross and the bikes were heavier - no carbon (fibre), no disc brakes."

Rawnsley said: "It is just part of my life . . . it is completely unique."

Mark Richmond, who took over organising the race from John in 2003, says: "It is a race that gets under your skin," while multi-champion Rob Jebb calls it "the most prestigious race in the world".

Chipps, on the Gritcx website, wrote: "It is hard to balance having an internationally-renowned event with a waiting list for entries (even in the 1990s) and still have it feel like a village fete.

"Had the race inaugurated in America, there'd be Jeep logos and energy drinks everywhere, with merchandise stalls and VIP cordons.

"Instead there's always just been a pub and some burgers - and a vicious racecourse. And that's why it entered the realm of cycling lore."

The race was devised for runners but John's dream was for a world-class cyclist to take part - one year he almost had Lance Armstrong riding, and last year Lachlan Morton, a professional rider with EF, made his debut.

"John's knowledge of the course and the riders was unmatched. He successfully predicted Rob Jebb's many successive wins."

Helliwell added: "John started training in May and organised a training day for many young and old cyclists over similar terrain in North Yorkshire - always an epic day out.

"This was organised every year since 1979. In their house in Bishopdale, John and Brigitte were always welcoming, and a hard day on the fells was followed by a soup and a roll in their kitchen.

"The downstairs shower was welcome and kept us muddy participants from the rest of the house."

As well as being fluent in organisation, John loved jazz music, was a skilled joiner and was fluent in French (his wife is French) - a skill that he kept hidden until a group of riders were at a restaurant halfway up Alpe D'Huez.

Helliwell remembered: "John surprised us all by chatting to the owner in fluent, if slightly, Yorkshire-accented French."

John also collected thousands of pounds for the Candlelighters children's cancer charity via an annual bike ride (what else?) of 110 miles in scenic North Yorkshire and Cumbria called the Candlebikers event.

Helliwell said: "It is difficult to think of anyone else who has done so much for cycling voluntarily over the last 60 years."

John Rawnsley - a remarkable man, a remarkable life.