29 March 2010

A Terrible Loss

The mountain biking community lost someone special last week.

James Williamson - rider extraordinare, National 24 Hour Champion 2006, World 24 Hour Champion 2008, MTBing journalist, and Editor of 'Enduro' mag, passed away apparently in his sleep, while competing at the ABSA Cape Epic MTB Stage Race in South Africa.

James wouldn't know me from a bar of soap, any contact I have had with him was brief and fleeting - usually him screaming past at a gazillion miles an hour while racing.

But I have followed his career and his riding over the last few years. I've enthusiastically read his articles, and I've religiously bought his magazine. He was an excellent author, a great rider, and a great role model for people wanting to get involved in the MTB scene. To have someone who is so passionate about the sport in such a high profile and public position can do wonders. When I saw him win the 06 Australian title, I think that was the moment that I decided 24 hour racing was something I wanted to have a crack at.

And I suspect that Willo has touched the lives, in some way or another, of many other MTBers. This was shown at the Mont 24 Hour on the weekend, where a minutes silence was observed for James, and the race start delayed 1 hour so that a Lap of Honour for James could be ridden by all 2500 entrants.

As we were standing quietly, just about to observe the minutes silence, I saw a butterfly flittering it's way through the crowd, landing on peoples shoulders, arms and helmets. I watched the butterfly for a good couple of minutes, and thanks to the wonders of the iPhone, managed to get the attached photo as it landed on my helmet.

I'm by no means a religious person, but it would be nice to think that this butterfly was James, working his way through the crowd, telling us all to go and have a ride.

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