By Adam Rosenfeld
The possibility of extreme fatigue and sleep deprivation doesn’t deter Nick Clark as he sets out to race in one of the longest annual endurance events in the world.
Clark, the owner of ProBike FC in Falls Church, is competing in the Race Across America (RAAM), a 3,080 mile cycling competition stretching from California to Maryland. His mission is to honor his late wife and the local law enforcement that helped his family after her sudden passing as a result of a pulmonary embolism in 2016.
“I’m a competitive guy, but this is different,” Clark said. “The driving motivation is the people that I’m riding for, for everybody that puts on the uniform. Every single pedal stroke is in memory of my wife who I miss very much.”
As a former Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) pro cyclist and the 1993 UCI Junior World Championships bronze medalist, the Australia native has a background in cycling. However, that hasn’t always been the case, Clark said.
“I never wanted to ride bikes. In the 80s in Australia you either played cricket, Australian rules football or rugby,” he said.
Clark first picked up a bike at boarding school when a friend told him he could join a biking club off-grounds instead of playing these sports.
The love he developed for biking sent him around the world and eventually brought him to Northern Virginia where he currently resides.
Crossing through 12 states and over 3,000 miles, the RAAM is most similar in length to the Tour de France, though it is not a stage race. Cyclists instead have nine days to pedal non-stop across the country. Competing in the RAAM as a solo rider, Clark will have to traverse over 400 miles for 18 hours a day leaving the rest only for sleep and recovery.
“Speed is not the key,” Clark said. “This is not about how fast you can ride your bike, it’s about the mental fortitude and how long you can stay on it,” Clark said.
He will not be alone, however, with a crew helping him on his mission. His team, made up of police officers, firefighters and friends, all share the same drive.
Each member is honoring a lost loved one or paying their respects to the law enforcement community.
Fran Lindenbaum, the crew chief and a Falls Church resident, is a retired federal agent and former member of the intelligence community specializing in counter-terrorism.
Even though he isn’t the one riding, after having lost his son, he feels the same determination as Clark.
“We all have blood in this, every single one of us,” Lindenbaum said. “Although some people do this race to raise money, were literally doing it for the people, and it’s just a matter of accomplishing this journey and honoring those people.”
Mirroring Clark’s situation as a solo rider, the support team is slim in numbers, with only eight people making the trek.
While other teams have more people contributing to the cause, Lindenbaum said their group makes up for it in experience and mentality.
Their approach is mission focused, deriving from the background of their members.
Clark built his team through his relationships in the Falls Church law enforcement community which he became integrated into after the passing of his wife.
Word of his expedition has spread far beyond the Little City, however.
Citizens and police from across the country have offered their well-wishes to Clark as he begins his cross-country adventure.
“The support has been amazing,” Clark said. “The amount of people that come into the shop that I’ve never met and say good luck, and I’m even getting messages from cops around the country.”
Clark is not only leaving behind his bike shop during the race, but also his two children. He said that the most challenging aspect of his trip will not be the 175,000 feet of elevation he has to climb, but the fact that he will be away from his kids.
“The hardest part about this trip is that the kids are staying behind,” he said. I do have a great support structure here and people will be looking out from them while I’m gone, but besides the sleep deprivation that’ll be the toughest part.”
As for the actual objective of the race, neither Clark nor his support team have any doubt about whether or not he’ll finish it.
“We know it’s going to be demanding but we know he’s going to finish that race and he’s going to finish it near the front,” Lindenbaum said. “We’re very confident about that.”
Clark took off from Oceanside, California on Tuesday, June 11, and you can follow him on his journey at TeamNickRAAM on Twitter and Facebook.
*According to the TeamNickRAAM Facebook page, Clark will not complete the remainder of the course due to medical concerns. This was announced yesterday afternoon. For more information, visit the TeamNickRAAM Facebook page.