Back in 2019 we noticed an English rider producing some solid results in what is arguably the toughest u23 race school in the world – Italy. Tim James was the man’s name.
Here at VeloVeritas we like nothing better than to talk to young men who are, ‘doing it’ on the continent; we caught up with Tim and interviewed him.
Over the weekend we were shocked and saddened to receive the following from his Swift Carbon Pro Cycling team management:
“It is with immense sadness that we share the passing of our friend and team member Tim James who died on 14 May, aged just 23 years of age.
“Tim had been taken ill with an extremely rare and unknown cancer last year.
“We are devastated at this terrible news and would ask everyone to respect the family’s privacy at this difficult time.”
Tim started cycling at the age of 10, when a local coach, Mark Botteley, set up some after-school Go-Ride sessions.
From there he joined his local club, Bourne Wheelers CC, and started his competitive career in cyclo-cross events, rising through the youth ranks and enjoying success along the way.
As a junior Tim turned to the road, and joined the Catford CC Equipe/Banks Team in 2016, racing across the UK in the National Junior Series with the likes of Jake Stewart, Ethan Hayter and Tom Pidcock.
Joining the Under 23 team 365 4 Bikes Academy in 2017 provided the platform to race in National senior events and helped shape Tim’s development.
Nurtured by coach Bryan McKinney, in his first year as an under-23, Tim produced a handful of top ten events in Nat B’s and top 20s and 30s in Nat A’s and it was clear that Tim had an abundance of talent.
Recognising that the UK road scene did not play to Tim’s strength as a climber, in 2018 he moved to Italy to join the Zappi Racing Team, maintaining his links with Coach McKinney. Italy provided a steep learning curve, great opportunities and invaluable stage racing experience.
Under the guidance of Flavio Zappi (Team Owner), Tim competed in a programme of one day and stage races, racing alongside future World Tour riders on a regular basis, including Alekander Vlasov, Georg Zimmerman, Andrea Bagioli and 2020 Tour de France winner Tadej Pogačar.
Season 2018 also saw Tim complete the Giro Ciclistico d’Italia (Baby Giro), a super tough test for any young rider, covering 1,200km over ten days.
Returning to Zappi Racing Team for a second year, spring 2019 saw Tim hit a stellar period of form, achieving his best results to date including:
- 5th Trofeo Guerrita (prestigious Spanish National Elite event)
- 10th Trofeo Cittá di San Vendemiano (UCI 1.2U)
- 11th Coppa della Pace -Trofeo Fratelli Anelli (UCI 1.2U)
- 16th Giro del Belvedere (UCI 1.2U)
- 17th Trofeo Piva (UCI 1.2U)
Tim’s race craft truly shone in the Trofeo Cittá di San Vendemiano, a 175km race in and around the Treviso province of northern Italy.
With 10km to go, the race was approaching the final climb, the feared Cà del Poggio; at 1km long, with sections of 20%, the climb was an opportunity to attack which Tim grabbed.
Sitting in the second group on the road, one minute down on the leaders, Tim hit the climb hard.
With 5km to go he had bridged the gap and a strong sprint saw him take 10th spot, a sign of his true potential and great racing ability.
Tim’s two years in Italy provided great comradeship from the others in the ‘Zappi House.’
“Tim was just a beautiful kid full of fun and positivity, great at helping the others when they had troubles sorting out bikes, but at the same time very determined at races.”
Tim returned to the UK for the 2020 season, stepping up to UCI Continental Team SwiftCarbon Pro Cycling and was set to be a key member of the squad until the Coronavirus pandemic meant that this was the season that never was.
Tim’s only race in SwiftCarbon colours was the Roy Thame Cup in March 2020.
Here Tim made the early break only to climb off after two laps as he was not feeling right.
Weeks of tests and investigations followed, before the devastating diagnosis of cancer was made.
Team Manager Paul Lamb reflects on how Tim came to join the team;
“The first time I became aware of Tim as a rider was in 2017 at a rain-soaked GA Bennett Road Race, a Nat B event starting and finishing in Grantham, Lincolnshire.
“I was in the convoy in a team car, and witnessed Tim riding a really smart race, hidden in the peloton until the final move was made on the last lap, which he went with, and then fighting hard up the last drag to claim 5th place – a great result for a 19 year old.
“Tim then became a regular sight in the distinctive pale grey and orange “365 4 Bikes Academy” kit at National events throughout that year.
“Looking back at the records, we actually raced at the same events, albeit in different age categories, during the 2013/14 CX season in both the Notts and Derby League and rounds of the National Trophy, though I think Tim’s results were better than mine!
“During 2019, I received updates of Tim’s progress from Callum Ferguson, who had ridden for me in 2018 before moving to be DS with Zappi.
“It was clear that being in Italy suited Tim’s profile and he was quietly getting on with developing into a classy rider.
“On the recommendation of Flavio, I had no hesitation in signing Tim up for SwiftCarbon Pro Cycling.
“I was really looking forward to seeing what Tim would be able to achieve in a UCI Conti Team with the race programme we had planned for 2020.
“Tim was a talented bike rider that would have gone on to do great things. He was also one of the most genuine and decent people I have had the pleasure to know, his humility and generous nature stood out.
“Tim will never be forgotten and as a team we will make sure his legacy lives on.
“My thoughts and condolences are with Tim’s family. We would like to pass on our deepest sympathy to Tim’s parents, Janet and Stuart, sister Georgie, and to all his family and friends.”
Tim’s mentor in Italy, Flavio Zappi posted this tribute:
“Yesterday morning we lost our boy Tim.
“He was what the Zappi project was all about.
“His results in races, along with his stellar UCI performances showed his hard work and dedication to the sport.
“Yet the Zappi project isn’t just about results.
“Tim never failed to have a smile on his face, and brought his infectious smile and personality to everything he did and never failed to bring the room alive.
“Tim had been suffering with an extremely rare form of cancer, but was still fighting and spreading his smile every day.
“We can’t get our head around how this can happen to such an incredible young lad, but we know that you’ll always be in the family and our thoughts as always.
“This is an incredibly hard moment for us and Tim’s family so we would ask you to respect Tim’s family and give them some privacy at this time.
“Tomorrow we are racing Trofeo Matteotti and will wear an armband in remembrance.
“Tim you will be missed by us all.
So very sad, VeloVeritas extends deepest sympathies to his family, friends and team mates.
RIP Tim – may the sun always be shining and there forever be a tailwind on the journey home.
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In support of their former Zappi teammate, Conor Chandler and Nic McKibbin recently took on a “7 Everest’s in 7 Days” challenge, riding up and down Ralph Allen Drive (a long steep hill) in Bath 76 times a day, every day for seven days in a row to raise money for Clic Sargent, the charity that helps children and young people with cancer face their treatment, and who supported Tim during his illness, and World Bicycle Relief a charity that mobilises people through the power of bicycles.
Donations can be made via GoFundMe: https://gofund.me/a43c1954