Robert's epic tribute to his dear friend Ivan
AN ACOMB cyclist is heading for the Alps and one of the toughest challenges in the world in memory of a friend who had to climb a mountain just about every day of his illness-blighted life.
Robert Scandle couldn’t think of a better way to commemorate his old school friend Ivan Bruce, who died last year at the age of 44, than to tackle the Haute Route Alps.
Aiming to raise as much money as he can for Renal Ward 32 at Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital, where Ivan had a successful kidney transplant back in 1992, and Macmillan Cancer Support, which helped care for him in his final illness, Robert will set out from Nice on Monday, August 21.
During the following six days, the electrician will ride almost 900km over 20 of Europe’s highest mountains, clocking up a total of more than 22,000 metres of ascent, with the aim of arriving in Geneva on August 27.
It was the least he could do for the friend he described as ‘a true gentleman’.
He said: “I first met Ivan at Hexham Middle School. During the summer holidays, I used to go to his house on my BMX, cycling over the old road which crosses the A69 between Hexham and Acomb, with my water bottle and a pocket-full of sweets.”
The pair lost touch for a number of years, but Robert credits Ivan, “a fanatical cyclist”, with igniting his own passion for the sport when they met again 11 or 12 years ago. Before he knew it, he was off with Ivan, doing cycling challenges in the UK and the French Alps.
“It’s incredible to think though that almost every single day of his adult life, he basically had his own mountain to climb – he fought one illness after another.
“But he was an amazing guy. No matter what life threw at him, he never gave in to it. No matter how ill he was, he never complained.”
Robert first remembers Ivan falling ill with glandular fever when they were still at school. Not long afterwards, he was diagnosed with lupus, the auto-immune condition that commonly attacks the joints and causes extreme fatigue.
In his early 20s, he had a kidney transplant; in his mid-20s both of his hips were replaced and in 2010, both of his knees.
He managed to qualify as a solicitor inbetween and did his best to keep on cycling.
Robert, now an established member of the Allen Valley Velo club, said: “Ivan introduced me to events such as the Cumbrian Cracker and persuaded me to take part in the then Northern Rock Cyclone race organised by the Gosforth Road Club.”
But his strongest memory of Ivan was seeing him cross the finish line of La Marmotte, one of the hardest one-day cycling events known to man.
“I know very experienced cyclists who would look at you as if you were mad if you asked them whether they had ever considered taking part in La Marmotte.
“So I will never forget seeing Ivan come flying round that final corner on the L’Alpe d’Huez on a baking hot day in July 2009.
“The sheer effort had sucked every last drop of mental and physical strength from his whole body, but that was Ivan – he was going to do it.”
Ivan was diagnosed with skin cancer in 2013 and just a few weeks before he was due to set off on another cycling expedition in France in 2015, he got an urgent telephone call from his consultant.
The cancer had spread and he needed to go into hospital as soon as possible.
But in his own way, Ivan said ‘enough is enough’.
He went ahead with his trip and took his dad, Peter, along to show him the sights and mountains that he had climbed over the years.
Ivan died peacefully at home on April 26 last year, surrounded by his family.
Anyone who would like to sponsor Robert can do so on his Justgiving pages ‘HauteRouteforIvanMacMillan’ and/or ‘HauteRouteforIvanFreeman’.