A POPULAR Hampshire cyclist has died following a collision with a car in the New Forest.

Southampton University student James Atherton was seriously injured on Sunday – just 24 hours after taking part in a race – and died in hospital yesterday.

Mr Atherton, 25, of Burgess Road, Southampton, was a well-known member of the Portsmouth-based VC St Raphael cycling club.

Last night club spokesman Mick Waite said: “James was making good progress at the club and everyone spoke very highly of him.

“He raced at Ludgershall in Wiltshire on Saturday in awful conditions and then went for a ride on Sunday.”

‘Experienced’ Mr Atherton was studying for a PhD in medicine at Southampton University, where he was a member of the cycling club.

The former Southampton Triathlon Club (STC) member was cycling with a  group of friends towards Pennington, near Lymington, when the accident happened in Pitmore Lane, Sway.

Last night a message posted on the STC website said: “Some very sad news has come in regarding James Atherton, who was a club member for a short period of time for 2010-2011.

“He was involved in a collision with a car and, in spite of being airlifted to hospital, has died of his injuries.

“James was only 25 and was a strong and experienced cyclist. A really terrible thing to have happened and STC offers its condolences to his family.”

The car involved in the accident was a grey Volkswagen Golf that was travelling towards Brockenhurst when the collision happened just before 11am.

Police say the vehicle was being driven by a 57-year-old man from Evesham, Worcestershire, who was unhurt.

Pitmore Lane was closed for several hours while police investigated the cause of the crash and arranged for the car and the bicycle to be recovered.

Anyone who witnessed the collision is asked to contact the Totton Roads Policing Unit on 101, quoting Operation Baroque.

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