AN Edinburgh Napier University lecturer will take part in a gruelling bike race from London to Paris – 25 years after doctors said he would never walk again.
David Stevenson will pit his wits against former Tour De France champ Stephen Roche in the London-Paris 2013 event this June.
He qualified for the prestigious amateur cycling challenge, described as “the closest the amateur rider can get to the Tour de France”, after conquering the Etape Caledonia across Highland Perthshire last year.
Entry to the three-stage endurance race, which starts from London to Dover through Calais and Amiens before ending in Paris, is an achievement for all of the 450 hopefuls.
But David’s inclusion in the calorie-crushing 300-mile challenge is all the more remarkable given he shattered his spine in a climbing accident.
The marketing lecturer at Edinburgh Napier was a student there when he fell 40ft from Blackford Hill, crushing his vertebrae and leaving his spinal chord exposed.
Doctors at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary told his family to expect the worst, fearing he would spend the rest of his life confined to a wheelchair.
But David, who was 21 at the time, underwent pioneering surgery and astonished doctors when he was back on his bike weeks after the accident.
He said: “Doctors said they were 99 per cent sure that I would be in a wheelchair but they didn’t tell me this until after the surgery.
“They just said I was lucky to be alive.
“I had internal scaffolding [right] fitted which was ok, but the brace I had to wear on the outside was not comfortable, especially when cycling – but I wanted to get back on my bike.
“It did make me realise how lucky I was and I stayed very active afterwards.
“People say I was brave but I don’t think so, you just have to get on with things, there is no choice.”
The metal screws were kept in place for a year but his refusal to rest even caused one of the screws to snap.
David went on to make a full recovery and enjoyed playing sports including volleyball for his university team.
He had not cycled for years, due to snapping his Achilles tendon and a couple of knee operations, but decided to get back in the saddle two years ago.
Since then he has lost four stone with his intensive training regime, frequently cycling a 35 mile loop to West Linton and back and up to 80-miles on his weekend sessions.
A quarter of a century on from his horror fall, David said he was keen to do something to mark his lucky escape.
The race, which features three 100-mile legs, will take part on closed roads in France and culminate on a home stretch past the Arc de Triomph and down the Champs-Élysées.
One of his chosen charities is the Stoke Mandeville Spinal Foundation which was responsible for the technique used to repair his back.
He added: “I have the surgeons in Edinburgh Royal Infirmary to thank for not being paralysed and for being in the position to be able to undertake this challenge.
“Hopefully any money I raise for Stoke Mandeville will help people like me in the future.
“I’m really looking forward to doing it but I’m a bit nervous at the same time. I’m physically fitter and better than I have been for a long time so I should be up to the challenge.”
Dr Gerry Webber, Secretary of Edinburgh Napier University, said: “David’s story is remarkable and an inspiration to all of his colleagues here at the university.
“Going on to lead such an active life after coming a whisker away from being paralysed is a real testament to his resolve and determination.
“We were only too happy to support his fund-raising efforts and wish him well for the ride.”