Most of us have dreamt of burning down the Champs Elysees at one time or other. Still more have dreamed of ascending the mythical cols of the Tour de France- indeed many have accomplished this feat on one of the many popular cyclosportives around. Yet there are few of us who hold the desire to do both, and to cycle the entire route of the Tour de France in the same number of days it takes the pros to do it.
Tim Moore’s hilarious book “French Revolutions” details this type of journey and, more recently, Geoff Thomas has raised a fantastic amount of money for charity through his TdF endeavours. Yet who amongst us would have had the courage, dedication and humanitarianism to complete the ride at 22 for charity?
Nick Stockley lost his father and grandfather in 2005 due to a brain haemorrhage and stroke respectively. He vowed to raise money for the Brain and Spine Foundation (registered charity no. 1098528), which cares for people with conditions such as brain tumours, strokes and epilepsy.
He is riding the route of the Tour de France in August, and the money raised on this trip will fund research, education and information with the aim to improving the quality of life for people with brain and spine conditions. Particularly pertinent to cyclists, the charity also provides care for those grievously injured through accidents such as car crashes.
The work of the charity is not just confined, however, to treating those suffering from the variety of conditions; they also give advice and support to the people (normally family members or close friends) caring for them through their helpline which is run by qualified neuroscience nurses.
Nick, a final year French and German student at Exeter University, spoke to RCUK:
RCUK: What, specifically, are you hoping achieve?
NS: I hope to raise as many funds as I can for the Brain and Spine Foundation, which is a cause very close to my heart. I felt the best way of doing this was to do something really epic to convince people to part with their money. I was inspired by the Tour de France and thought this was what I wanted to do.
I’m hoping to cycle the approximate route of the Tour this year, a month after the race has finished. This will be over 2000 miles in total, so quite a challenge! I should be able to complete it in 3 to 4 weeks.
Are you going solo, or riding with others?
The majority of the riding I will do alone. I have one or two friends who are going to meet me at specific points en route to ride with me for a day or two and help lift my spirits if I’m feeling down! Helen, my girlfriend, is driving the support vehicle, so at least I don’t have to worry about carrying all my kit and the like.
Do you regularly ride events like this?
Oh, no. No way. I started cycling at 12 with a mix of Cross-Country and general mountain biking, and then switched to downhill at 16. I was staying last year in the Pyrenees, and saw loads of road cyclists. I went out once and just got totally hooked. I brought my first road bike in October last year (a new 2003 Specialized Allez Sport found in the back of the shop) and have not looked back since.
Have you been doing any training for the event?
Lots. At first it was just a case of getting on my bike a couple of times a week and getting the miles under my belt.
Now it involves about 3 rides of around 40 miles a week, and a longer one at the weekend. Longest I have ridden to date is 60 miles along Hadrian’s Wall, but still improving all the time.
It’s been difficult trying to fit my training around revising heavily for my final University exams, but I think I’m doing ok. I’m going to reduce my mileage for 2 weeks soon so that I can recover properly and do my exams more easily. Then, post-exams I’ll be really racking up the long rides hopefully, before tapering late July to allow me start my ride early August pretty fresh.
It’s not just about doing the ride, but doing it well.
And how are you feeling about the ride? Do you get nervous thinking about it?
The magnitude of the whole thing occasionally hits, and fear starts to creep in, but basically, it’s for a really good cause and I just want to raise money for it. I don’t think there is a better reason than that, really. That keeps me going strong. With the right preparation and planning, I’m confident that I can manage whatever may happen to me.
And do you ever feel excited? It’s such a huge undertaking, what are you looking forward to?
Well, in no particular order; sun, scenery, sense of achievement, finishing on the Champs Elysees, and conquering some enormous climbs. L’Alpe D’Huez is going to be my personal challenge, the one I really want to do.
And rest days, presumably?
Oh, yeah. (laughing) I can tell I’m really going to look forward to the rest days.
There’s not a lot left for us to say, other than that we really wish Nick all the best with his ride and look forward to any updates on how it has been progressing.
If you would like to sponsor Nick on his epic journey, please go to www.justgiving.com/nicholasstockley.
If you want to send advice or support to Nick, you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org