Simon Usborne: 'Nick Dodds was diagnosed with testicular cancer – but as he fought back, doctors told him to ride again'
Saturday 28 August 2010
It's easy, as a bike bore, to get caught up in a cycle of vanity and obsession. You get fixated on gears, seeking out water bottles to match your paintjob, or checking your form in shop windows (no, really). But now and then you meet someone who reminds you it really isn't about the bike.
Nick Dodds is lucky to be around. Aged 15, inspired by his cycling heroes Roche and Kelly, he told his careers advisor he wanted to be a professional cyclist. Dodds went on to work in TV instead, and his beloved Peugeot began to rust. Later, Dodds returned to cycling when epilepsy forced him to give up his car. But then, in 2003, he was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Radiotherapy sapped his energy – and almost his will – but as he started to fight back, doctors told him to ride again. "It was hard, but I soon remembered that raw freedom I used to love," he says.
After four months off work, Dodds made a triumphant, two-wheeled return. "I showed I was still alive," he says. But he sought a greater challenge. Last summer, he took on Mont Ventoux, the "giant of Provence". But the Etape du Tour crushed him, illness forcing him to quit on the fearsome climb.
Undeterred, Dodds was back at this year's Etape. I met him in the Pyrenees, where I gate-crashed a 100-strong party of Sky employees given the chance, in conjunction with British Cycling, to take on the famous sportive.
For Dodds, who joined Sky Sports News in 1998, there were scores to settle. But after 100 miles, not long before the cruel summit finish at Tourmalet, Dodds began to crack. "The heat drained my energy like a bath without a plug," he says. "Every pedal stroke was punishment."
Spurred on by supporters, Dodds ground on. "The last 100 metres took an eternity," he says. "I didn't so much power as limp over the line. I started crying, slumped over my bars. I'd stuck two fingers up at epilepsy, cancer and all the bad things in my life."
Dodds credits Lance Armstrong with motivating his recovery. The cancer-surviving pro rode the same stage at the Tour de France four days later, finishing in about five hours. It took Dodds 10 hours, but as Lance "it's not about the bike" Armstrong would agree, his achievement was just as great. To read more about Nick's ride, visit independent.co.uk/cyclotherapy
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