One Bristol man is taking his long-term passion for pedaling to incredible new heights this weekend, and everyone in his family and friends circle thinks he’s going a little bit nuts.
And Redland-based Nigel Clarke has started questioning his own sanity as he gears up to cycle up the world-famous mountain on Sunday (10 July) following in the tracks of Tour de France legends for charity.
The event, called the ‘Étape’, is in its 30th year and is aimed at amateur cycling enthusiasts, which sees them cycle along the same mountainous route as stage 12 of this year’s epic Tour de France.
Charity work is incredibly important to kind-hearted Mr Clarke, who in normal life is a regional director of Schroders Personal Wealth and is based at the company’s West Country HQ in Colston Avenue.
So, inspired by British cycling greats Geraint Thomas, Mark Cavendish, Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins, the Bristol dad-of-three will push himself to the limit in the ‘Étape du Tour de France’ for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust.
Having warmed up for the event by taking place in the slightly closer-to-home Dragon Ride across the Brecon Beacons, Mr Clarke will be banking on pedal power to help him negotiate a 167-kilometre stage that will also see him tackle climbs with a combined elevation of 4,700 metres.
It’s a bit different to anything we’ve got in England, though, with the route taking Mr Clarke towards the world-famous Alpe d’Huez peak, which at 1,850 metres towers above the UK’s highest mountain, the 1,345-metre Ben Nevis.
“It’s the biggest physical challenge of my life and everyone’s saying I must be a lunatic because I’ve let myself in for the most punishing bike ride going,” says Mr Clarke.
“And to be honest, I have been questioning my own sanity as well because it’s got to be up there with the very toughest challenges for amateur cyclists, way beyond what I’m used to in the Brecon Beacons.
“But I’m really ready to push myself to the limit for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust whose quest for a cure is a cause that is really close to my heart.
“That’s because a close friend’s son is living with the condition, which affects the lungs and digestive system, as is one of my own son’s best pals so it means a lot. They will be uppermost in my thoughts when I’m battling to get to the top of Alpe d’Huez.”
Mr Clarke will have to tackle the fabled climbs of the Cols du Galibier and de la Croix de Fer as he heads to Alpe d’Huez on a route based which is part of cycling folklore, due to being the same route that legendary French cyclist Bernard Hinault won the last stage of his career in the Tour de France.
But Mr Clarke will be taking inspiration from the British riders who have carved a niche in Tour de France history. “I’ve got so much respect for Bradley Wiggins, Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome because they’ve won the Tour which is an extraordinary achievement,” he says.
“Mark Cavendish is one of the greatest sprinters in the history of cycling and while I might not have his sprinting power, I will make up for that through sheer grit and determination.”
Mr Clarke will be driven to keep going in the challenge by all his generous friends and family, as well as his Cardiff work colleagues who have sponsored his brave attempt.
“At first they thought I was making a mountain out of a mole hill when I told them what the Étape was all about. But now the Tour de France is in full swing across the Channel they know the full size of the task ahead of me which is why they’ve been so generous with their backing,” says Mr Clarke.
“I’ve been really moved by their support and that will spur me on as I head towards Alpe d’Huez, when I’ll no doubt question my own sanity.”
To sponsor Nigel and find out more about cystic fibrosis and the ‘Étape du Tour de France’ visit his Tour de France sponsorship page.