A father who had to learn to walk, eat and swallow again after having a tumour removed is set to defy the odds, when he takes part in a gruelling cycle ride.
Sergeant Kim Fenwick, a dog handler based at RAF Boulmer, is part of a team of wounded, injured and sick servicemen and veterans, supported by Help for Heroes, who will travel to France to tackle the most infamous mountain-bike race on the Alpine Enduro Calendar.
The Mountain of Hell is considered to be the most challenging and fastest race on the circuit, with riders reaching speeds of up to 65mph as they travel down a double black ski slope in the Alps.
The team of eight wounded heroes will be making history, by being the first disabled cyclists to take on the Mountain of Hell.
And for Sgt Fenwick, the fact that he will be on the start-line is an incredible feat of determination and marks a huge step on his road to recovery.
In 2016, following a nine-hour operation to remove a benign tumour from his auditory nerves (leading from ear to brain), he had to learn to walk, eat and swallow again.
The 42-year-old has been left deaf in his left ear, numb on the left side of his face due to nerve damage and has terrible balance issues. He now has a bone-anchored hearing aid and is having ongoing surgery to repair the damage to his facial muscles, as well as yearly MRI scans to check the tumour isn’t growing back.
Sergtt Fenwick, who lives in Alnwick with his wife Helen, 14-year-old son Mark and 21-year-old stepson Michael, said training for the event had really boosted his self-esteem.
He said: “It has been physically and emotionally important. I enjoy the camaraderie, the motivation from the group and the fun we have.
“I’ve not done anything like this before to this level. I will now look to continue to push myself and take part in more mountain-bike events.
“I’ve now started running again and I’ve regained some confidence and feel happier.”
Sgt Fenwick was a keen mountain biker as a boy. The former pupil of Dr Thomlinson’s Middle School, Rothbury, and then King Edward VI High School, Morpeth, competed at junior level in the North East MTB series where he did XC, Trials and Downhill.
But he gave up the sport at the age of 18 and only returned when offered the chance to take part in the Mountain of Hell.
He said: “What appealed to me was the idea of being part of a team, all trying to achieve the same thing. I also thought it would boost my confidence, help my fitness and show that I’m still capable of doing demanding and skilful sports and to compete – I love competition.
“To compete in the Mountain of Hell will be amazing – something I will never forget.”
Sgt Fenwick will arrive in Les Deux Alpes with the rest of the team next Thursday. The following day, all riders have the opportunity to inspect both the qualifying and racing runs. The qualifier, on Saturday, June 30, will determine the start line-up for the final, which begins at 9am the next day.
The team has been training for the past six months under the expert guidance of Colour Sergeant Roger Coates, based at the Help for Heroes northern Recovery Centre, in Catterick, North Yorkshire.
He said: “The team is now physically and mentally fit enough to attempt the impossible and become the first disabled riders to finish the race.
“We’ve pushed the boundaries and they will be testing themselves to the limit.”