'I spent 40 days and 40 nights in isolation, then went on to claim medals' - cycling is a daily motivation for Transplant Games athlete

Topley spent six weeks in isolation after a bone marrow transplant, but returned to become a medal-winning racer

A picture of Nick Topley cycling
From cycling novice to multiple medallist, it’s been a thrilling ride
(Image credit: Future)

When I catch up with Nicholas Topley in early 2024, he has just returned from a ride. Barry Island in South Wales (UK) is the venue, and the wind has been blowing hard as usual. “The wind direction is either one way or the other,” he says. “Today it was from the east, which is not usually as bad as from the west.” He’s been trying out some new Flandrian socks, which he’s happy to report have prevented frozen toes despite the minus-four-degree winter windchill. 

Battling chilly, windy training rides is a familiar scenario up and down the country – but 63-year-old Topley’s story is anything but run-of-the-mill. He is a survivor of aplastic anaemia, a bone marrow transplantee, and a regular competitor at the Transplant Games – from which he has brought back a host of medals since he began competing in 2019.

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After cutting his teeth on local and national newspapers, James began at Cycling Weekly as a sub-editor in 2000 when the current office was literally all fields. 

Eventually becoming chief sub-editor, in 2016 he switched to the job of full-time writer, and covers news, racing and features.

A lifelong cyclist and cycling fan, James's racing days (and most of his fitness) are now behind him. But he still rides regularly, both on the road and on the gravelly stuff.