A champ at inspiration

The guy on the left in the photo is Mick Extance and next to him Steph Jeavons.

Both are good friends who joined me on a training trip to Morocco several years ago when I was chasing the opportunity to be Canada’s first driver to complete the Dakar Rally.

Today, Steph arrived in Kathmandu with a group of women who are going to be the first women to ride motor bikes to Mount Everest base camp. Steph, you might recall, recently set a world’s first record by riding her Honda CRF 250 around the world on all seven continents. 

Mick, by contrast, is fighting the biggest fight of his life. 

After entering the Dakar seven times and finishing in the top 25, he was ranked as Britain’s top Dakar rider until Sam Sunderland won the motorbike category in 2017. 

Mick was going to be my co-driver with the Bowler Motorsports team in the U.K., hence the training in the Sahara. This photo was taken the day we entered the dunes and I subsequently broke a collar bone and two ribs. Mick’s challenge was, however, yet to come. 

Mick’s goal is and always had been to inspire people to reach beyond their own personal beliefs and stretch, and he was a master at it. He certainly found a way to push me hard on the Morocco trip.

A few years ago though, Mick’s journey took a significant turn. He collapsed in his yard in Wales and after arriving at the hospital, it was discovered he had a very serious brain tumour.

No ticket home from the hospital until he had seven hours of surgery removing half of a tumour around a significant blood vessel at the base of his brain.

I saw photos of him on Facebook and the medication he was taking was disfiguring his face. 

I went to the U.K. about four months after his operation and we had lunch. 

We pulled in to the car park of a delightful Welsh pub and my brother looked at me and said “Mick is really happy to see you, he wants a serious conversation.”

In the back of my mind, I knew what was coming. 

We sat down and almost immediately Mick looked at me and said:

“We’ve got some unfinished business, mate. We never did the Dakar and I might only have one last shot. We are doing the Dakar in 2020.”

I choked back the lump in my throat and pretended my eyes were not watery. I managed to say I would think about it. In reality. I knew that the timing was just bad for me with business. 

Bad didn’t even describe Mick’s timing. He knew that the remaining tumour could grow, but the surgeon said the operation was very risky because of the location.

But that has not deterred Mick in the past and never would. I knew he was going to do it. Mick doesn’t back down. 

As we walked back from the pub to his house, he told me a story of a person in his village who had a similar diagnosis and was completely uplifted by Mick spending time with them and talking about the process he went through to not only keep the will to live, but also enter the Dakar. 

Mick is entered, and I won’t be joining him, at least on this attempt. Perhaps a four-wheel drive attempt with Mick is in my future.

But I don’t think Mick has the all clear to get his competition licence, regardless that won’t stop him.

But my point with the column is that a story like this is ultimately incredibly inspirational.

A lot of personal time and money is invested in the project to make it work; your economic life usually goes backward not forward. Yet, in reality, as inspirational as I think it is, very few people show up to help raise money for the cause that the adventurer chooses.

Whether it is someone who climbs Everest or sails an ocean single handed or runs across a country the amount of money raised usually is around a few thousand dollars. 

In Mick’s case, I guarantee you if the regulations allow him to compete, he will, I also guarantee you, if he starts, he will finish or he will literally die trying in this attempt.

His vision is bigger than the Dakar; he wants people to know that brain tumours are not always terminal.

His will to fight, to live, to race is compelling. Please take a look at his page and if nothing else send Mick an encouraging note from North America:


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About the Author

Mark has been an entrepreneur for over forty years. His experience spans many commercial sectors and aspects of business. He was one of the youngest people to be appointed as a Fellow of the prestigious Institute of Sales and Marketing Management before he left the UK in 1988.

His column focuses on ways we can improve on success in our lives. Whether it is business, relationships, or health, Mark has a well-rounded perspective on how to stay focused for growth and development.

His influences come from the various travels he undertakes as an adventurer, philanthropist and keynote speaker. More information can be found on Mark at his website www.markjenningsbates.com

He is a Venture Partner with www.DutchOracle.com a global Alternative Investment company.

Mark Jennings-Bates:
[email protected]

Photo credit: www.SteveAustin.ca 

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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