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Cardiff cycling nut set for Tour de France challenge for charity

Nigel Clarke

Cycling-mad Nigel Clarke’s passion for pedaling is set to reach new heights this weekend – and everyone thinks he’s going nuts.

Kind-hearted Nigel has even started questioning his own sanity as he sets his sights on heading up a world-famous mountain when he follows in the tracks of Tour de France legends for charity.

Inspired by British cycling greats Geraint Thomas, Mark Cavendish, Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins, the Cardiff-based businessman will push himself to the limit in the ‘Étape du Tour de France’ for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust.

And the 54-year-old is braced to go through the pain barrier in the 30th ‘Étape’, which is aimed at amateur cycling enthusiasts, on Sunday (10 July) along the same mountainous route as stage 12 of this year’s epic Tour de France.

It will take the fatherof-three 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 and so Nigel knows he is in for a tough ride.

“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,” Nigel said.

“And to be honest I have been questioning my own sanity as well because it’s got to be up there with very the toughest challenges for amateur cyclists, way beyond what I’m used to in the Brecon Beacons.

“But I’m really ready 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 sons is living with the CF 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 because I know my efforts will make a positive difference to people living with cystic fibrosis.”

Financial whizz Nigel, a regional director of Schroders Personal Wealth, who is based at the company’s Wales HQ in Cathedral Road, Cardiff, warmed up for the Étape du Tour de France in the demanding Dragon Ride across the Brecon Beacons.

Now Nigel, who lives in Redland, Bristol, is ready for another lung-busting feat and 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.

Nigel will have to tackle the fabled climbs of the Cols du Galibier and de la Croix de Fer will as he heads to Alpe d’Huez on a route based which is part of cycling folklore.

That is because it is the same route that legendary French cyclist Bernard Hinault won the last stage of his career in the Tour de France.

But Nigel will be taking inspiration from close to home the British riders who have carved a nice 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,” Nigel said.

“They have reached the pinnacle of cycling in more ways than one but it’s Mark Cavendish who is my real inspiration because he’s proved his doubters who said he had the wrong physique for cycling by winning a record amount of Tour stages.

“Cav will down as 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.”

“And as well as people I know who are living with cystic fibrosis I will be driven on my all those generous friends, family and my Cardiff work colleagues who have sponsored me.

“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.

“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.”