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UCI continental team rider Tim James, from Bourne, dies from rare cancer aged just 23




Exciting cycling prospect Tim James who was tipped to compete alongside the world’s elite has died from a rare cancer aged just 23.

Tim became ill last year, on the cusp of joining the professional ranks, with what was ultimately diagnosed as an extremely rare cancer.

He passed away at his family home in Bourne last Friday morning, surrounded by parents Stuart and Janet, and sister Georgie.

Tim's best result was a top-five finish in an elite national race in Spain. Photo: Zappi Racing Team
Tim's best result was a top-five finish in an elite national race in Spain. Photo: Zappi Racing Team

“Even when he was told there was no more treatment he was more concerned about us and how we would manage than himself,” said mum Janet.

“He told us ‘please carry on with your lives and do all the travelling you wanted to do and please look after Georgie’.

“He was such a selfless person.”

Tim was described as focussed and determined in the saddle, and compassionate and caring off the bike. Photo: Zappi Racing Team
Tim was described as focussed and determined in the saddle, and compassionate and caring off the bike. Photo: Zappi Racing Team

A fierce competitor on the bike, with a compassionate nature out of the saddle, he took on three rounds of chemotherapy and surgery.

Against a disease of which less than a handful of cases had ever been recorded in the world, Tim faced an unfair fight, but handled it with positivity.

“Everyone he met, from consultants to friends and relations, couldn’t believe his stoicism throughout,” Janet added.

In his early cyclo-cross days with Bourne Wheelers at Rutland Water, aged 11. Photo supplied
In his early cyclo-cross days with Bourne Wheelers at Rutland Water, aged 11. Photo supplied

“He never once complained. He would just say ‘I’ve got cancer, I’ve got to get on with it’.”

Tim’s cycling odyssey began aged 11 at a Go Ride session at Bourne Westfields Primary Schools, where Mark Botteley, of Bourne Wheelers, spotted a natural talent.

After success in junior cyclo-cross ranks he switched to road racing.

A canny rider who honed his racecraft on the Continent and earned a slot with a UCI Continental team back in the UK. Photo: Zappi Racing Team.
A canny rider who honed his racecraft on the Continent and earned a slot with a UCI Continental team back in the UK. Photo: Zappi Racing Team.

He soon developed as a climber, and aged 15 crested the infamous trio of Tour de France mountain climbs - Mont Ventoux, Alpe D’Huez and Col de Galibier.

Following A-levels at Bourne Academy, he took time out to pursue his cycling dream, training in Spain for two months before moving to Italy in 2018 to join the Zappi Racing Team.

He spent two years learning his trade in a brutally tough and competitive environment, racing regularly alongside future World Tour riders, including Tadej Pogačar who won the Tour de France in 2020.

Tim with former professional rider Flavio Zappi who runs Italian development team, Zappi Racing. Photo: Zappi Racing Team
Tim with former professional rider Flavio Zappi who runs Italian development team, Zappi Racing. Photo: Zappi Racing Team

He twice rode the Baby Giro, the junior version of elite stage race, the Giro D’Italia.

The team wore black armbands at their latest race on Sunday.

Flavio Zappi said: “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 (second right) with his Zappi team-mates. Photo: Zappi Racing Team
Tim (second right) with his Zappi team-mates. Photo: Zappi Racing Team

His best result was fifth place in prestigious Spanish national elite race Trofeo Guerrita, but it was consistent top 20 finishes, and tactical astuteness which caught the eye of SwiftCarbon Pro Cycling.

He signed for the 2020 season to compete at UCI Continental level - just two rungs down from his dream - the elite World Tour.

Team manager Paul Lamb: “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.”

However, his opportunity was stolen by the Covid pandemic which wiped out the race calendar, and then illness.

Tim inspired team-mates Conor Chandler and Nic McKibbin to climb the equivalent of Mount Everest every day for a week for children and young people's cancer charity Clic Sargent, which supported Tim during his illness.

Tim’s parents are planning to raise money in Tim’s memory to help raise funds for the Teenagers and Young Adult centre at Addenbrooke’s where he received specialist treatment.

Sister Georgie was also this week given a place in October's London Marathon to run for Cancer Research UK.

“There was every possibility he could have made it, he had the world at his feet,” Janet said.

“Its not just his cycling, it was everything about Tim that made him so special to so many people.

“He was a very good rider, but would never talk about himself and always helped other guys sort their bikes out.

“He was very close, but we will never know that.”



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