A 14-year-old schoolboy, who was the youngest ever competitor in a 1,000km ultra-endurance cycling race across France, has raised more than £15,000 for charity.
Flint Clark was riding the ‘The Unknown Race’ in honour of his little sister who has a brain tumour. The race, which started on the 7 April, was a true test of grit, bravery and fitness, and competitors are only alerted to the location of the first checkpoint one hour before the start. All subsequent checkpoints were revealed at the next, until the 1,000km distance was completed.
Flint was competing in the race with his dad Matthew, 47, and was the youngest person to ever participate in the challenge, however the pair experienced a catalogue of mechanical failures forcing them to reluctantly retire from the race just as they were about to start the last day of the race. The pair joined 26 other riders of the 73 starters who also had to retire.
Flint, across the four days, faced gear malfunctions and a jammed chain and his father suffered brake failures and a severe puncture, which proved to be the final blow. The pair were reliant on their own extensive cycle repair kits, however the damage was too significant to sustainably and safely repair the tyre.
The Easter weekend meant that cycle repair shops along the 1,000km route were closed. They continued to attempt to repair their vehicles with the equipment they had, and came very close to completing the challenge when safety concerns meant that ‘scratching’ the race was their only option.
Flint was fundraising for Tom’s Trust, a children’s brain tumour charity which supports families with mental health care, in honour of his little sister Mimi, 13, who was diagnosed with a brain tumour when she was just three and received support from the charity. He has now raised more than £15,000 – enough to help 12 children and their families over the next year.
Flint said, who is from Bishop’s Strortford, Herts., said: “I loved the ride. It’s such a shame that it had to end early due to mechanical failures, although we tried out best and got far into the ride. We rode very well as a pair and really enjoyed the ride however hard it got. I’m proud of us.”
Matthew Clark said, on Flint’s JustGiving page “We took risks. We had some misfortune, but good luck too. We relied on ourselves, and supported each other. I’m disappointed at his lost opportunity to finish, due to my failure to keep the bikes running, but elated with pride at the manner in which he conducted himself. The vast amount of time lost to mechanical issues spoke volumes about the pace he was riding. He has competed with men and women, strong in every sense, and he has held his own. I feel it was a worthwhile endeavour, and I hope that those who have supported our cause do not feel that we have fallen short of our mission; to suffer and endure.”
Flint’s sister, Mimi was diagnosed with a pilomyxoid astrocytoma brain tumour in 2013, when she was three. She endured surgery and chemotherapy to battle her tumour, but despite becoming stable, relapsed in 2017. She then had proton beam radiation in Florida. After this, Mimi was stable for a couple of years before developing a new tumour nodule in the radiated area. Chemotherapy was no longer as option, so in March 2021 this nodule was removed. She has recovered well from this surgery and the family are hopeful she stays stable, although she still needs ongoing help and support.
Mimi has left side dystonia from her first surgery, which is a medical term for a range of movement disorder that cause muscle spasms and contractions. Mimi walks with limp and sometimes uses a wheelchair. The teenager has no control over her left arm, which she calls her ‘lazy arm’. She also has to take growth hormones as having cancer at such a young age affected her development, as well as medication for hypothyroidism and hydrocortisone tablets. Some recent hip pain turned out to be a condition called acetabular dysplasia, which puts excessive pressure on her hip joint.
Yvette Clarke, Mimi and Flint’s mum, 44, said: “We are incredibly proud of Flint for taking on this huge challenge. Flint has always been a very keen cyclist and from the moment he got onto a bike at the age of three he took to it like a natural. He has done several bike tours through the mountains in the past with his dad, but to push himself even further he is keen to try unsupported ultra cycling. Flint has always been so supportive of his little sister. It makes us very proud seeing him raising money for Tom’s Trust. It is an amazing charity which has helped our family to cope for almost 10 years now. Our psychologist has especially helped Mimi with her needle phobia and coping with MRIs and helped me with my anxiety over Mimi’s treatment stopping.”
Debs Whiteley, who co-founded Tom’s Trust after her nine-year-old son Tom died from a brain tumour in 2010, said: “They’ve done it in our minds – they turned up and gave it a million percent which is the only important thing – total and complete heroes.”
To read Matthew’s full race review and to donate to Flint’s fundraising page go to www.justgiving.com/fundraising/flint-clarke
To find out more about Tom’s Trust go to www.tomstrust.org.uk