Tributes from the Australian mountain bike community have flowed in after waking to the news of endurance racer James Williamson’s passing. Williamson was competing at Cape Epic in South Africa, where team-mate Shaun Lewis was unable to wake him before yesterday’s third stage.
Williamson was rushed to a nearby hospital in Ceres, Western Cape Province, but paramedics were unable to revive the 26-year-old.
Mountain Bike Australia president Russ Baker led tributes for the late rider. “All of us in the Australian mountain bike community are extremely saddened to hear the news of James' passing,” said Baker. “His contributions to the sport of mountain biking in Australia, and the world, are many.
“For me, the lasting memory of James will be his perpetual smile, often accompanied by words of encouragement as he flew past on a single-track,” he added. “Australian mountain biking has lost one of its giants today. Our thoughts go out to his family and friends, and especially to Shaun and Niki [Fisher].”
The news of Williamson’s passing comes on the eve of one of Australia’s biggest 24 hour races, with the Mont 24 Hour to be held in Canberra this weekend. Mont 24 hour co-ordinator Alan Vogt described the Enduro Magazine editor as a bright star.
“This news will come as a great shock to all that knew him as James was one of the nicest guys you would ever meet (on track or off) with an incredible attitude to life,” said Vogt. “James was very well known and regarded to all of us here at the Mont event. The mountain biking community has lost a very bright star and will miss him deeply. We wish to express our condolences to James' family, his partner Nikki and his friends.”
Anthony Burton, Canberra Off Road Cyclists’ former president, described the death as a tragedy to abc.net.au. "There is certainly a great sense of shock," he said. "We are a pretty close-knit community on the whole. The news certainly rocked us to the core."
Williamson won the World Solo 24 hour mountain bike Championships in Canmore, Canada in 2008. He rose to prominence with a string of Sydney 12 hour wins, before claiming the Australian Solo 24 Hour title in 2006. Williamson won the Scott 24 hour last year in a team that included Lewis.
Williamson had planned to contest next month’s 100km Marathon Championships and defend his Scott 24 hour title in October.