When we’re not keeping an eye on what’s happening in Northern Europe we have a peek at what’s happening down in la Bella Italia. A young man by the name of Tim James has been posting some solid results down there in the hard-fought u23 classics as part of that enthusiastic and characterful man Flavio Zappi’s team.

‘Best have a word,’ we thought…

You’re 21 from Lincolnshire – how did you get into cycling, Tim?

“Yeah, I’m from a small town called Bourne in south Lincolnshire. 

“I started cycling at around the age of 10, when a local coach called Mark Bottely set up some after-school Go-Ride sessions. 

“From there I joined Bourne Wheelers and predominantly raced cyclo-cross. I only really started road racing when I was an U16, and not very well!”

Tim James
Tim (left) making the climb looking easy. Photo©Alessio Pederiva

Were/are you a Rayner Fund man?

“No, I applied last year when I joined Zappi, but unfortunately I didn’t receive any funding. 

“I think what they do for the UK’s continental scene is great, by giving the chance for many U23’s to race abroad.”

So how and why hook up with Flavio Zappi?

“At the time I was a first year u23, racing in the UK with a small u23 British team. 

“I got a couple of top 40’s at Premier Calendars, but the racing really didn’t suit my climbing strengths. 

“Flavio wanted a few guys to guest at a race called ‘Bassano-Monte Grappa’ in July, so I sent him a message. 

“The race went pretty horrifically, getting dropped at the start of a 26km climb in 42 degree heat, finishing nearly an hour behind the winner. 

“Having seen the sort of racing out in Italy I knew it was definitely for me, so I joined the team for 2018.”

You rode the Baby Giro last year – tell us about that.

“It was definitely the hardest 10 days of my life! 

“Coming into the race, the longest stage race I’d done was three days, so I didn’t know how my body would react after that. 

“I had a very poor start to the race, taking a couple of days to get into it, but by stage three I was starting to perform a bit better. 

“There were stages where I felt strong and could go with the front group, but by the next day I was getting dropped on the first climb. 

“In the end my main aim was just to finish, which I managed to do. 

“Although I didn’t get anything out of the race results wise, I gained valuable stage racing experience which I will hopefully use this year.” 

Tim James
Photo©Ruben Vice

The team is on Holdsworths this year?

“For 2019 the team partnered up with Holdsworth. 

“A British bike brand founded in 1926, which was then started up again a couple of years ago by Dave Loughran of Planet X. 

“The team are riding the Holdsworth Super Professional in the classic orange and blue paintwork, which has got us into trouble a few times when people take pics of the bike at cafe’s!” 

17th in the brutal Trofeo Piva, we saw.

“The Piva is one of the hardest one day races we do all year, so you need to be going well to even finish! 

“I knew the form was decent coming into it, so all I had to do was ride smartly and fuel well to get a result. 

“The race had over 3000 m of climbing, so it was just a war of attrition by the end. 

“Over the top of the last climb I was hanging onto the remnants of the front group, containing 20 riders, and only managed to position well into the final 500 m; a 20% kick up with one kilometre to go. 

“I gave everything over the climb and rolled in 17th, with teammate Mason Hollyman 16th, making it a great day for the team. 

“With past winners like Jay McCarthy (now Bora), Tao Geoghegan Hart (now Ineos) and Mark Pudun (now Bahrain), I was pretty happy with a top 20.”

Then 10th in Trofeo Citta di S. Vendemiano…

“I was 13th the year before, so was really up for it this year! 

“The first 100k’s were pan flat, moving to a small 10km, including the infamous Ca’ del Poggio. 

“A 1,000 metre long climb with sections over 20%. 

“Coming into the last time up the climb I was in a 15 man group, around a minute behind the leaders, so I went from the bottom to try and bridge. 

“I made the gap with two other riders, catching the group with five K to go. 

“I managed a strong sprint at the end, finishing fourth in my group, almost catching the front six. 

“This was my first UCI top 10, so I was over the moon.”  

Photo©supplied

And you were 16th in the Giro del Belvedere?

“This was the day after S.Vendemiano so I really wasn’t expecting to do much. 

“Thankfully the first 120k’s were relatively flat since I felt awful during every single one of them! I sat at the back of the group for three hours not sure what to do with myself. 

“The last 40k included two steep two kilometre long climbs, which would shape the race. 

“The first time up I still wasn’t feeling great but I just kept riding and found myself in the first main group of 50 riders, with only 10 up the road. 

“Next time up I had much stronger legs so I went with the front guys, finishing with a strong sprint to come 16th. 

“Again, a result that I was really happy with.”

Stronger results than last year – why?

“This is my second year in Italy, so I feel like I have adapted to the racing style much better since last year. 

“I have also seen a pretty significant improvement in my power numbers in the past six months, so I feel I am definitely still developing as a rider while others may peak very early in their career.  

“Last year was focussed more on getting used to Italian racing, while this year I have targeted races with the help of Flavio and my coach, Bryan McKinney.”

I notice a huge number of DNF in these races.

“The races are just downright brutal. 

“Almost every race will have some sort of hill to repeat many times, making it so hard to finish if you’re having a bad day. 

“This year, San Vendemaino only had 39 finishers, with around 160 starting! 

“Having the broom-wagon only two minutes or so behind the race doesn’t help too!”

Strong opposition: Astana City, Colpack, Dimension Data, Gazprom, IAM

“Yeah, Italy has most of the world’s best u23 races, attracting a lot of these big feeder teams. 

“Some turn up to the race with a fleet of cars, trucks, and buses, so it’s easy to feel belittled by them just because their budget is tenfold of ours. 

“I just try to race like everyone is my equal and give them no more respect than I get from them. 

“In the end, we’re all racing with the same goal in mind – to win!”

Tim comes how behind his teammate. Photo©supplied

Are Aosta and the Baby Giro on the agenda?

“Yes, the Baby Giro definitely is! 

“Having checked out the route, there are definitely a few stages that suit me, which I will hopefully be going for. 

“I will try to do the best I can on GC, but I know it’s hard to maintain positivity on an everyday basis. 

“The main GC man for us is Mason, so I will also do my best to help him. 

“I found out last year Aosta doesn’t really suit my punchy style, with multiple long climbs most stages. 

“In my head, I probably won’t be doing it, but who knows!”

What would make this the year you would like it to be?

“There’s still a couple UCI one days before the Giro that I am looking to get good results in. 

“With the results I’ve had so far, top 10’s are the goal, but of course a win in one of these races would be the dream. 

“I’d like to think I’m on the radar for some big teams with the results I’ve had so far, so I’m just going to try and carry on what I’ve been doing.”

Here at VeloVeritas we have nothing but admiration for lads like Tim, out there, in the Heartland – doing it. Respect.