The sport of downhill mountain biking his been robbed of two rising stars with their death in a car crash.

Tom Rodgers, 21, from Langcliffe, and his friend 18 year-old Ben Ineson, from Selside, died when their Peugeot 306 crashed into a wall and hedge on the A65 near Long Preston on Wednesday afternoon.

Mr Rodgers, who had worked for All Terrain Cycles both at its original shop in Cross Hills and then in Saltaire for over four years, was the 2007 Senior English Champion.

This year he was was riding for the All Terrain Cycles team in the elite division and had just returned from New Zealand where he had been competing.

His younger brother, Ben, 18, also a downhill racer, is still out there.

His parents, teachers Keith and Sue, are understood to be working abroad on a two-year contract.They last saw their boys at Christmas time before they set off abroad.

Work colleagues at Salts Mill were still in a state of disbelief today at the death of their "full on and unforgettable" friend.

All Terrain Cycles boss Tony Booth said today:" It is horrendous. Two of their friends here have been up to the site already to pay their respects.

"Tom was such a full-on person, full of life. He lived for racing - everything was about bikes.

"He was a very good worker and ran the race team. He was very keen and enthusiastic – such a bubbly full-on character. You’d not forget him if you met him.

"Tom had been due to be in work today and when he failed to arrive with us by 9.30am we thought it was unusual. We tried to ring his telephone but got nowhere.

"Tom had curtailed his New Zealand trip and was not actually due to come back until March to start the new season."

It was Tom’s dedication which helped forge the team’s success.

"All the momentum and enthusiasm came from Tom," said Mr Booth Ben too had been a member of the team last year and there was talk about him getting semi-sponsorship this year and was looking for a new team.

The youngest of four children, Ben was the son of Sally and Mick Ineson and was ranked number one in the junior section of British Cycling’s Downhill Mountainbike Championship.

Last summer he competed in Canada and Slovenia as well as in the UCI World Cup at Fort William, Scotland.

"This is a big loss to the sport and to everyone who knew them both," said Mr Booth.

He said they were still considering how to progress with the team next year but he believed the two friends would want them to carry on.

North Yorkshire police are appealing for witnesses. They said the pair had been in a red Peugeot 306 car which came off the road crashed into a wall and hedge.

It is understood the car had been travelling away from Settle when the accident happened near Mearbeck – between Settle and Long Preston – at 1.30pm on Wednesday.

All three emergency services attended and the two men – who were cut from the wreckage by firefighters from Settle and Bentham – were pronounced dead at the scene.

The road was closed for more than four hours and local diversions were put into place.

Police want to speak to anyone who witnessed the crash or saw the car beforehand. Those who can help should contact Traffic Constable Mark Tiffany at Skipton’s road policing unit on 0845 6060 247.