Exposed by a Strava KOM: The many lives of a fake pro cyclist
Australian cyclist Nick Clark built a loyal following at his Virginia bike shop, based in part on his national and international results and a lengthy professional career. There was just one problem: none of it was true.
This is the strange tale of the unravelling of a years-long deception – the ‘Catch Me If You Can’-like story of a man with a claimed past as a pro cyclist, a soldier, a CEO, a lawyer, an author, an academic, a hostage responder, and a weapons instructor.
These are the many lives of Nick Clark.
- Chapter 1 Prelude: National championships, Worlds medals
- Chapter 2 The KOM: Motor-doping, digital-doping or just plain doping?
- Chapter 3 The Worlds: Wrong guy, wrong place
- Chapter 4 The Teams: AG2R, Chazal, Casino, or none of them?
- Chapter 5 The Australian: A man unknown by his peers
- Chapter 6 The Shop: A chance for rebirth
- Chapter 7The Coach: An illustrious career
- Chapter 8The Tragedy: A death in the night
- Chapter 9 The Women’s Team: Inclusivity turns toxic
- Chapter 10 The Performance Centre: Essential oils and sports psychology
- Chapter 11 The Sponsorships: East Coast institutions
- Chapter 12 The Fake Team: A Roubaix start for a team that doesn’t exist
- Chapter 13 The Method: Edits, editorials, advertorials
- Chapter 14 The Backstory: A glittering academic record
- Chapter 15 The CEO: Senators, Generals, $Millions
- Chapter 16 The Military Man: Medals, missions and make-believe?
- Chapter 17 The Endgame: The truth comes out
- Chapter 18 The Reinvention: A violent new path
- Chapter 19The Reflection: An avalanche of little deceptions
- Chapter 20 The Curtain Closes: Clark’s final performance.
Nicholas Paul Clark’s downfall begins on a Thursday in September, 2019.
It’s a clear, early autumn day in a privileged, pristine pocket of Fairfax County, on the fringes of Washington DC. On a tree-lined road near Great Falls, a small figure on an expensive road bike rides up the hill. The sun dapples through the trees, casting the scene in a green and gold glow.
That rider is Nick Clark, and in this version of his life he is a 44-year-old former professional cyclist.
As a teenager, he’d emerged from obscurity to win a bronze medal for Australia in the 1993 Junior Road World Championships – a breakthrough result that set him on a pathway to the European pro peloton. Over the seasons that followed, Clark confirmed his early promise with a couple of Australian time trial championships. Those were peaks of a professional career stretching over a decade, with starts at some of the most prestigious races on the calendar.
The Tour of Flanders, Paris-Nice, Liège-Bastogne-Liège – he’d raced them all. He counted world champions as friends, and continued to dip his toe into the European continental scene when time allowed.
By 2019, Clark was wearied by a long racing career, but his legs still packed a punch. And so, on that weekday ride, as the seasons hung in the balance, Nick Clark sped up the hill to an inflection point.
He didn’t know it then, but at the moment he crossed the virtual finish line of that Strava segment, his life would fragment into ‘before’ and ‘after’, bringing a years-long pyramid of fabrications and embellishments crashing down.
Nick Clark was a globetrotter. Born in Jakarta, Indonesia, to a diplomat father, and raised in dusty, distant Perth, Western Australia, the ex-pro now lived in the United States.
He’d landed there almost by accident. He’d moved to South Carolina for work in 2013, ended up in the wealthy little municipality of Falls Church, Virginia, and – when he started a bike shop in November 2017 – left the stress of corporate life behind him. The Little City, as locals call it, had been home ever since.
Under his leadership, ProBike FC blossomed to become a hotspot in the east coast road cycling scene – and with it, Clark’s reputation grew. Before long, he was a local identity, presiding over a thriving but inclusive boutique filled with glistening road bikes: Colnagos and Looks, FiftyOnes and Factors. Weekly bunch rides would sometimes attract crowds of more than 60 riders, followed by barbecues in the carpark.
Steadily, Clark’s empire grew. His store – a compact frontage in a strip of shops across the road from Falls Church’s titular church, next door to an Afghan restaurant – evolved along the way, expanding to a second premises in the same strip. The business wore many hats: a podcast studio, a training centre, a gym, a community hub.
Word of mouth was the store’s biggest asset, and a network of shop ambassadors and racing team members flew the ProBike FC flag proudly. And at the centre of it all – paternalistic, charismatic – was Nick Clark, an earthy Australian with a tragic past and a colourful racing history.
At first he was humble about his heyday as a pro, playing it down, but he became more comfortable over the years. The war stories from Flanders required little encouragement to surface on the shop’s podcast, during in-store banter, and on the ProBike FC social media channels.
In a low-key way, he seemed proud of what he’d accomplished in his career. In the profile picture of his (now-deleted) Strava account, Nick shared the frame with two former world champs, smiling at the camera on a cloudy day in Belgium. Behind Nick, his mate Johan Museeuw gave a thumbs up, standing next to Paolo Bettini. “Retired Pro Cyclist,” read Clark’s bio. “Was never up there, but was there.”
Half a world away from ‘there’ and 9 miles (14 km) from Donald Trump’s White House, Clark held court in ProBike FC. Hanging on the walls of his store were frames, jerseys, and medallions accumulated throughout his career. On the right: a national champion’s jersey, a gold medal, a bike frame. To the left: a framed UCI bronze from the 1993 Oslo World Championships.
“Was never up there, but was there,” in physical form on the walls of a suburban bike shop.
In the moment that everything hinges around, Nick Clark either does or doesn’t get a Strava KOM (the ‘King of the Mountain’, or fastest time, on a segment on the sports social network, Strava.) That doubt is the key that unlocks all the doors we’re about to walk through.
On the quiet Leigh Mill climb segment, not far from Falls Church, the road rises from Difficult Run River and punches upwards for half a mile (~800 m). When Clark logged his ride to Strava at day’s end, his speed up the climb – an apparent 33 mph (53 km/h) on a climb that peaks at 8.5% – suggested an absurdly strong set of legs, or a digital glitch. Maybe both; stranger things have happened, both in cycling and on the internet.
But among some observers – one of whom thought a Strava KOM might’ve been sniped via motor-doping, digital-doping, or just plain old ‘doping’ – it stretched plausibility just a bit too much.
So, some people started digging.
Nick Clark didn’t know it then, but at the moment he crossed the digital finish line of that Strava segment, his life would fragment into ‘before’ and ‘after’.
A browse through Clark’s other ride files – across the US east coast, in Portugal and Italy, and near Tucson, Arizona, where Clark until recently owned a condo – showed a well-travelled rider with chops on the bike, holder of several KOMs. Some looked legit, but the Leigh Mill climb wasn’t the only one that aroused suspicion.
A later effort, from August 2020, showed Clark reaching new heights on the hulking Mount Lemmon, a hors categorie climb in Arizona that is one of the longest, toughest ascents in the US.
For a time, the then-45-year-old Clark sat in prestigious company on the Strava leaderboard – in the top 20 overall, on one of the most notorious, hotly contested segments in the country. Among the riders Clark bested was a younger Sepp Kuss – one of the sport’s great climbers – who in 2020 shepherded Primož Roglič to second overall in the Tour de France and last year won a stage for himself.
Kuss had gone all out for his Mt. Lemmon time. Clark had breezed up the 14.7 mile (23.65 km) climb pushing out a modest 136 watts, his average pulse for the effort sitting at just 137 bpm, for a finishing time that was within minutes of the likes of Phil Gaimon and Mike Woods.
If you know a bit about the pain and mathematics of riding up mountains, you might see those numbers and begin to wonder a few things. Things like: Does this add up? Can it be explained by racing pedigree or muscle memory? Is this a believable performance?
So maybe the door opens just a crack. Maybe you peep through the gap, look Clark up on the internet to find out who he rode for and when, and take a scan of team rosters for names you recognise.
And then, maybe, you begin to wonder about other stuff – you can’t help it, really. The cycling teams; the races; the man and his medals and memorabilia.
You have a choice then. If something feels off, do you keep believing what you’ve been told, or do you let doubt creep in?
Do you let yourself ask the big question: if Nick Clark was all he said he was, why did none of it make any sense?
In 1993, as the story goes, Nick Clark was an up-and-comer from Perth, Western Australia, who’d chanced his way into selection for the Junior Road World Championships. The plucky young Australian – having cut his teeth in the Institute of Sport (he never seems to specify which one) – had travelled to Oslo, Norway to compete against the greatest age-group talents the world had to offer, at the same championships where Lance Armstrong won a rainbow jersey in the rain-soaked elite men’s road race.
Clark’s story is one of naivety: “I didn’t really even understand the relevance of UCI Worlds and what winning would mean,” he told a Pez Cycling News journalist for a 2020 profile. “I remember when I was coming into the finish line, I had 500 meters to go and thought, man 3rd’s pretty good. Since I actually found out the relevance of wining [sic] a UCI gold, I haven’t stopped questioning ‘what if I had of [sic] gone harder?’”
It’s a good story, but it’s built on rickety foundations.
Although the senior categories raced in the Norwegian capital, Junior Worlds that year wasn’t held in Oslo at all. In fact, that year the junior races took place in Clark’s native Perth.
And despite actually hailing from that city, Nick Clark’s name does not appear on the list of finishers, because there’s no evidence he ever started the race. The third place finisher that day was an Italian, Michele Rezzani.
Hanging on the wall of Nick Clark’s bike shop in Falls Church was a UCI bronze medal that Clark never won, for a race he never rode, sourced somehow from who knows where.
Let’s work forward from there.
When you know to look for the lie, Clark’s breakthrough result is easily disproved – but why would you think to fact-check a junior race from almost 30 years ago? He had the stories; he had the medal – there was little reason to question any of it.
After making that splash, Clark’s story went, he relocated to Flanders as a naive aspiring racer, taking a series of professional contracts for teams including Spenco, Chazal, and Petit-Casino. After parting with Petit-Casino – which had morphed into the French AG2R team – Clark’s career carried on with a series of brief stints riding for short-lived Pro Continental teams (now called ProTeams) scattered across Italy, Portugal, and Asia.
In the most common version of Clark’s cycling life story, he rode for the French AG2R-Casino team for three years. But occasionally, alternate narratives sidle in. In one bio, there was a dispute over pay or status, or a mid-contract relegation to stagiaire status; in another telling, a three-year contract was terminated early, pushing Clark out.
The AG2R team, which has had a near-30-year history in the sport under several naming-rights sponsors, is now known as AG2R Citroën, with riders on its roster including 2016 Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet, multiple-time Luxembourgish champion Bob Jungels, and Clark’s fellow West Australian, Ben O’Connor, fourth at the 2021 Tour de France.
The French squad is one of the most respected, and longest-running professional teams in the sport. Unfortunately for Nick Clark, AG2R’s professionalism extends to the rider records it keeps. When I contacted the team, a representative said that he had “never heard of Nick Clark”, and after conducting a detailed check of team rosters during the relevant years, says he found no evidence of him ever having ridden there.
So if he wasn’t riding for AG2R, where was he riding? Clark’s version of the story is that of an Australian journeyman of the peloton. “I was getting worn out on the WorldTour,” Clark once told a reporter. “It was a tough slog being a non-European in Belgium and in particular French teams. I had some options with other WT teams but made the call to drop to Pro Continental and was so much happier for it,” Clark elaborated. His best experiences as a racer were, he claims, “the Liege-Bastogne-Liege and Ronde van Vlaanderen”, and his “best day on the saddle was Züri-Metzgete … I controlled the peloton for 80 miles and put my GC on the podium.”
Through the 11 years that Clark places himself as an active professional, he claims to have lined up at Monuments, lived in Flanders, ridden as a domestique, and found an unlikely niche – given his slight stature – as a cobbled classics specialist. Back home, meanwhile, he was a force on the Australian domestic scene, picking up at least one national title – the 1998 U23 Time Trial Championship.
That claim, too, is not without its problems. Given Clark’s age, he would have been ineligible to compete in the U23 category – if an U23 race had been held that year, which it wasn’t, as the category was first introduced in 2001.
Even more bafflingly, Clark was also, for a time, credited on Wikipedia as the winner of the U23 Australian Time Trial Championship in 1999 and 2000 – when he would have been 23 and 24 years old, again in years that the category didn’t exist. By May 2020, as this video shows, Clark was claiming to have been a four-time Australian National TT medallist.
The question marks kept mounting over the Australian champion that never was.
Europe in the 1990s was an inhospitable place for Australian riders. Athletes faced an uncertain job market half a world away, grappling with unfamiliar languages and a myriad of culture shocks, both big and small.
A few trailblazers had cleared a path for young Australian cyclists to go to cycling’s heartland and pursue their dreams, but the number of riders making it to the sport’s upper reaches was small. Separated from their families by oceans and continents, the community of Australian cyclists in Europe was the next closest thing. It was a select crew, and they looked out for each other.
Olympic gold medallist Scott McGrory – who was based in Europe from 1996-2004 – told CyclingTips that he “has never heard of [Nick Clark]”. Ditto Allan Iacuone, 1994 Australian road race champion. Another prominent cyclist of the era explained that most of the teams Clark claims to have raced for would never have even been on the startline for the races that are listed among Clark’s career highlights.
To a person, the Australian professional cycling diaspora of the 1990s doesn’t know anything about Nick Clark. Every former rider I contacted to confirm details of Clark’s story reacted in the following three ways, and in the following order:
Confusion, denial, bemusement.
Extensive further fact-checking from CyclingTips, involving discussions with a number of teams and individuals – as well as governing cycling organisations including AusCycling and the UCI – shows no evidence that Nick Clark raced in any of the races he said he did, for any of the teams he says he raced for.
Case closed? Not really. If a fabricated or embellished professional career was all that we were dealing with here, that would be a strange and slightly sad thing.
Perhaps you’d have some sympathy for someone taking a years-long break from reality. Perhaps you’d write it off as an attempt to find community, or emulate heroes, or inflate a wounded sense of self.
Fair enough; that would be an easier story to read. It’d certainly be an easier story to write. A fake pro; a real-life Walter Mitty. The end.
But that’s not the story you’re reading, because things are about to get much more complicated, much stranger, and much darker.
You see, after more than a year of reporting on this story, this thing just kept on unravelling. So we’re not just talking about one man’s fabrications, but the ripples from those fabrications: a team of riders that allege abuse at Clark’s hands, a series of embellished life events stretching back to the 1990s, ties with the political and military elite, alleged misrepresentations across multiple industries, and possible stolen military valour.
To work out how this collapsed tower was built, we need to start somewhere, and it might as well be 116 E Fairfax St. Falls Church, Virginia.
By late 2017, 11 years after he retired from a pro road career that never existed, Clark had appeared in Falls Church and opened a high-end bike shop with himself, the self-styled former pro, as its figurehead.
He talked a good talk, Nick Clark, with a storyteller’s flair for making every listener feel like he was sharing with them something both intimate and personal. He was simultaneously approachable but elevated, with a shimmering charisma and an exaggerated Australian twang. There was, I’m told, a kind of radiance to him.
And while he never seemed to oversell his cycling achievements, they gave his shop a peripheral glow. It was there in the store name, and the racing memorabilia scattered around it – the jerseys, the medals. Hanging on one wall was an Eddy Merckx time trial frame with Australian Institute of Sport livery – since confirmed by a former Olympian to have been the type raced in the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games, when Clark would have been just 17. In pride of place above the workshop counter was a cartoon caricature of Clark in AG2R-Casino colours, riding past the Arc de Triomphe. There was also a Casino-issue Colnago C40 hanging on the wall:
Perhaps the most ostentatious mementos, however, were two luxurious bike frames that Clark commissioned from FiftyOne Bikes, an ultra-boutique Irish custom carbon fibre specialist known for its elaborate finishes and impeccable construction.
One featured a paint job based on the faded fluorescent livery of one of the squads Clark claimed to have ridden for – the Chazal team of the early 1990s – with a UCI bronze medal painted on the top tube.
The other, in yellow with a cobblestone motif on the top tube, featured details that were a nod to the Flanders region of Belgium that Clark claimed to have called home, along with highlights of a fictitious racing career written down the seat tube. On the top tube was a cartoon nuclear bomb – a reference to his apparent nickname during his racing years, ‘The Nuke’.
It’s worth noting that there were no actual photographs in the store of Clark racing as a younger man – Clark would reportedly tell doubters that his memorabilia was held captive in a storage unit in Perth that he no longer had access to. The FiftyOne bikes could, therefore, be seen as expensive projections of an imagined past, so extravagant that they discouraged further scrutiny. These were, a couple of my sources hypothesised, a way for Clark to legitimise himself or deflect questions about his racing career.
And so, on his FiftyOnes and his Colnagos and his Factors, Nick Clark rode the streets of Virginia, leading his ProBike FC bunch rides. As ProBike FC’s success grew, so did its community of riders, stretching Clark’s fictions ever further and thinner as he spread them to a broader audience.
But for now, the deception held. Clark’s charismatic presence in the store – and the inherent power imbalance that was at the core of his relationship with his customers – gave breath to the lie.
Over the years, though, a spark of deception was gently fanned into flames that would consume the community.
Soon after Clark opened the store, another wrinkle entered his backstory: he began to say that he’d relocated to the US to take on team director and general manager roles in the sport. Clark claimed he’d been headhunted by Lance Armstrong’s most loyal lieutenant, George Hincapie, to set up a women’s version of the Hincapie-Holowesko squad – a domestic squad founded in 2012 as a feeder to the now-defunct BMC Racing Team.
That relationship apparently withered almost as quickly as it sprouted. According to sources, Clark claimed that he’d martyred himself to get the team off the ground. The way the story goes, “George [Hincapie] called him and told him ‘I’m not getting the money, you have to fire all the women’ … Nick used that as a way to present himself as a saviour and a really, really good man. He told us that firing these women was the worst thing he ever had to do,” I was told.
The Hincapie story appears to be a fabrication. CyclingTips can find no evidence that a women’s version of the team was ever planned or existed, although a request for comment from the administration behind the men’s team went unanswered.
No matter. Nick Clark was now a cycling coach, and Hincapie-Holowesko slips out of the narrative in more recent versions of his story. In a since-deleted 2020 PezCyclingNews interview, Clark claims to have “gotten into managing Pro Conti teams after I retired … dealing with budgets, and rider contracts and sponsor negotiations” – something CyclingTips can find no evidence to support. In a podcast, he claims that he also helped establish an unnamed Asian Continental Team. On a recent version of Clark’s LinkedIn page, meanwhile, there is a stint listed with a “TER Profesional [sic] Cycling Team”, with Clark describing himself as TER’s full-time “general manager” for a period of two years, from November 2014 to November 2016.
There is no apparent web presence for TER Professional Cycling team, but a search of various US race result databases is a little more forthcoming. There is one cyclocross rider – Nick Clark – listed as having competed under a Team Energy Racing [TER] banner, and a handful of riders racing on the road.
The squad, such as it was, raced mostly in the Carolinas in 2014 and 2015, in lower-level and Masters categories. Clark himself competed in four Cat 3 road races in total, finishing in the back half of the field on each occasion.
Throughout his time as an elder statesman of the east coast cycling establishment, Clark’s narrative constantly shifted and took on new forms, floating across decades and disciplines of riding. Sometimes an embellishment seemed to drift out from his grasp – as with Team Energy Racing – before needing to be wrangled back under control, through increasingly elaborate means.
The ProBike FC podcast, with Clark as the host, was one such tool – although, listening back, it seems like it should have aroused more suspicion than it dispelled. In one episode, for example, he misidentified the Ardennes region of Belgium as being in Flanders – it is on the opposite side of the country – and referred to week-long stage race Paris-Nice – which he claims to have raced – as a Spring Classic. Again, it is not.
Another of the tools Clark may have used to maintain his deceptions was paid editorial placements in a variety of publications – some big, some small.
That’s where you’ll find one of the few supporting documents for Team Energy Racing’s existence, in an article from 2019 that reads as follows: “After representing multiple teams and securing a bronze medal against his name, which he won at the UCI World Championships, Nicholas decided to establish his own team for which he moved to the United States. Owing to his exquisite career, TER Cycling Team immediately offered him a role as a Director Sportif,” the article gushes.
Another mention claims that Clark was also “seasonal coach and ongoing statistic coach for FCI Team Bicci based out of Italy”. There is no other mention of this team elsewhere online.
This was during a period where, according to some versions of Clark’s own mythology, he was simultaneously moonlighting as a Pro Continental level rider for another Italian team on the UCI Europe Tour. In yet another permutation, Clark was hopping between cycling disciplines, competing as a professional Downhill/Gravity and MX racer from 2015 onwards. [Although he has self-nominated for a pro-level license in these disciplines and held a license as of 2021, USA Cycling records do not indicate Clark has ever actually competed in these categories. His last race in any discipline was in August 2015.]
In 2018, Clark even had a verifiable – albeit very short-lived – stint as an ultra-endurance rider, lining up at the prestigious Race Across America (RAAM) with a nine-person crew who had travelled across the country to support him.
Of the total distance of over 3,000 miles (4,800 km), the official race records show that Clark completed just 88.40 miles (142.2 kilometres) at an average pace of 11.48 mph (18.47 km).
Clark’s claimed tally was slightly higher, but either way, his withdrawal came early. In a Facebook video, he cited a “nearly traumatic breakdown from the waist down”, while on his RAAM blog a “blood infection” as the result of “multiple major dental procedures” the week before RAAM was listed as the culprit. “He is on the mend and is looking forward to heading over to Annecy, France to race,” the post read. A week earlier he’d outlined plans for a “Ride Redefined”, crossing the US again by himself.
As mired in mystery as that RAAM attempt may have been, there was a reason for Clark to set off across America.
He was a man on a quest to recover from a tragedy that necessarily hangs over everything that you’ve just read, and are about to.
In January 2016, Georgia Clark – Nick’s wife of eight years, and mother of their two children – passed away suddenly at the age of 43.
She hadn’t supported him through his professional cycling career, because she didn’t know those embellishments existed. Nick and Georgia Clark had met in Western Australia in 2007, married in 2008, and moved to the US in 2013 for him to take up a role as a CEO at an Australian Securities Exchange (ASX)-listed chemicals company, which had its operations based in South Carolina.
In the aftermath of Georgia’s tragic and premature death, Clark disappeared further into his work, going through a series of corporate role changes before abruptly resigning in mid-2017. A market announcement at the time said that he was leaving the company to focus on the needs of his young family; a later annual report said that he left for “health-related reasons”.
The tragedy of Georgia’s passing, according to one of Clark’s narratives, redirected him on a new path: to open a bike shop, and forge a new life for himself: “Open up that damn bike thingy place Nick!”, he has claimed she once said.
It seems likely that Georgia’s death contributed to Clark’s mental state throughout parts of this story, while adding strain and a weight of grief to what appears to have already been a complicated life with multiple other lives nestled within it.
Like so much else about this story, there’s a shroud of mystery draped around Georgia’s death. Media and sources have conflicting accounts of how she died: at various points a lengthy illness, an aneurysm, a pulmonary embolism, or complications from cosmetic surgery are described as causes. A couple of interviewees independently hypothesised that Clark would bend the story to evoke particular emotional responses in those he was talking to.
CyclingTips does not suggest any wrongdoing on Clark’s part, and it is entirely possible that the wording used is simply a matter of medical semantics. To a point, the way it’s expressed really doesn’t matter – the tragic outcome remains the same.
That said, a shifting narrative of how his wife died does appear to indicate a loose relationship with the truth. And crucially, there were also many discrepancies in Clark’s backstory from years before Georgia’s 2016 death – suggesting a pattern of chameleonic behaviour that was already well-established, rather than tragedy being the catalyst.
Regardless of the specifics of how Georgia died or how her husband communicated it, one thing is certain: Nick Clark was suddenly without his wife, and their children without their mother, away from family support structures, in a different continent.
Does Georgia’s passing help explain some of Nick Clark’s actions? Perhaps. But there’s an opposite side to that question that needs to be asked:
Does it excuse them?
So: we’re back to late 2017 in the hamlet of Falls Church, where a grief-stricken ex-pro has begun to build an adoring community around himself.
On the one hand, his growing tower of fabrications could be seen as a way to reestablish a sense of self in the wake of more than 18 months of mourning. On the other, perhaps he had more visceral urges – a desire for power and control.
Maybe there’s room for both realities.
Clark established a representative women’s team with himself as a coach, an evolution on the foundations of his claimed coaching experience.
The ProBike FC Women’s Racing team – which is no longer active, for reasons that we’ll get into – competed on the east coast racing scene at a Cat 3/4 level, with a stated goal of “promoting a safe, nurturing and educational training and race culture in the Mid-Atlantic Region.” The team’s website continues: “we support women’s cycling as an inclusive sport, and believe in clean competition with an emphasis on good sportsmanship. We believe that empowered women, empower women.”
That is a noble goal, and for a time, there seemed to be an alignment of purpose. According to one of multiple riders on the team I spoke to, Clark was “engaging, charming, and seemingly very supportive at the onset, which made the prospect of the team enticing.”
In addition to the familial atmosphere, there were more tangible incentives. Members of the team were lured by sponsorship deals Clark said he’d lined up with a number of major brands, including the esteemed Italian racing bike marque, Colnago.
In a November 2017 email, Clark wrote to the six ProBike FC women’s team riders of the time that “due to the close relationship I have with Colnago, having raced on their frames going back to the mid 90’s when I was with Casino/Ag2r, Im [sic] please [sic] to say that they have indicated that Colnago is willing to sponsor the women’s team [with] the Carbon Race Edition CLD with the new Ultegra Mechanical!!”
Clark told the riders there were some expectations to attend a small number of gran fondos to represent their sponsor, but that the rest of their race and training program was up to them to decide.
By March 2018, however, Clark’s hands-off approach was becoming increasingly hands-on. In one email he talked about how “disappointed” he was with some skills, and made it “mandatory for me to join the ride” if more than two team members rode together:
That safe, nurturing and empowering women’s team with the fancy Italian sponsor was starting to feel a bit serious.
Over the first year of the team’s existence, Clark’s controlling behaviour continued to escalate, and by June 2018, half of the original members had had enough, either departing voluntarily or, they say, being driven out.
Four riders I spoke to independently confirmed a deterioration in Clark’s behaviour. What began as a creeping sense of intangible unease turned into sharper, more targeted, and, they say, more cruelly defined patterns of abuse, as the larrikin Australian coach began to turn against individual team members.
One rider who spoke to CyclingTips on the condition of anonymity, fearing retribution, described an emotionally devastating spiral:
“I have many negative stories about my association with Nick. He was emotionally unstable and abusive, he needed to be adored and respected, and I am not the type of person to give respect where it is not earned. He was very solicitous of select team members, and would offer free or heavily discounted merchandise and make other ‘too-good-to-be-true’ offers.”
The team website describes the team as being “fully supported” by ProBike FC and Colnago. However, in reporting for this story, CyclingTips has learnt that there was never any Colnago sponsorship deal in place. The bikes were bought through the usual sales channels that were available to ProBike FC as a Colnago dealer, bought on the dealer account and paid for by Clark. [Clark later admitted this detail, saying “Colnago did sponsor me the bikes below cost … I bought them”.]
One rider, who we’ll call Sam, told CyclingTips of her embarrassment at this discovery, feeling that she had been manipulated into representing a brand as a sponsored athlete when no such agreement was in place. “For a whole season, I had been tagging them [on social media]. And we were so proud of ourselves: we’re this new women’s team, the only women’s team in D.C. that was only women, and then at the end of the season, I found the receipts [showing] that he had bought them. He paid for all of them, and gave us the bikes. It was humiliating.”
In one light, that could almost be forgiven – the riders didn’t have bikes before, and got them for free: who cares who wrote the cheque? That’s how Clark himself sees it, and in isolation, perhaps there’s a point there.
However, in the context of alleged manipulation that the riders were subjected to, a fake sponsorship deal organised by a fake ex-pro road cyclist that was coaching a real amateur women’s team begins to feel a bit more problematic.
The riders allege that Clark’s interactions with them were not just framed by these slowly shifting tides of manipulation. At times, I was told, he became emotionally and physically abusive.
“He would yell at me, and even hit me a few times on training rides,” another rider, who we’ll call Sarah, told me.
“On a training ride while the team was pacelining, he rode up next to me and smacked me on the thigh/hip, barking something or other about how I was going too fast, or too slow, or not being in line.
The part of me that is a victim knows it’s not right, but I still feel shame somehow; part of me tries to rationalize his behavior like: ‘he only did it a few times’, or ‘it wasn’t like he hit me THAT hard’, or ‘he was just carried away in the moment.’”
More than three years on, Sarah continues to process her response to what she now sees unambiguously as abuse. “The fact that I even try to justify or defend the OK-ness of something NOT OK is sad, but I own it and am trying to learn not to downplay it.”
Other riders say that, while they did not see this specific incident take place, they were aware of a broader pattern of discrimination against Sarah. Clark, for his part, categorically denies that any of these events took place.
Despite being a regular scapegoat of Clark’s, Sarah achieved increasing levels of success. This only seemed to infuriate him and amplify his reactions, she says:
“He would put me down and berate me in front of teammates and pitted us against each other. He never personally coached me or took interest in my development; he never watched me race once. So both of us were surprised when I succeeded early and often, podiuming at every race.
He told me it was because I was lucky; that I had no skill and I was a nothing and a nobody, and berated me for not being a ‘team player.’”
This alleged bullying of Sarah has been confirmed by two other riders, who say Clark would talk about Sarah behind her back, telling teammates that “She’s so ugly, she’s graceless … she looks like a mountain biker.”
“He was just so jealous of her that if she would be faster than us going up the hill, he would stop the whole training ride and just scream at her on the side of the road,” I was told by Sam. “She’d almost be crying.”
“He is charming and wants to win you over, is on your side … and in the next breath he’s taking you out at the knees. It’s really tough – it damaged me a lot,” Sarah told me. Finally unable to tolerate what she saw as a deteriorating cycle of abuse, she left the team and almost stopped riding altogether.
“I seriously considered never racing again, never riding my road bike again. I stopped using social media altogether because it was too traumatic to watch them [the remaining riders and Clark] continue parading around their own toxicity under the so-called banner of inclusivity and support in women’s cycling,” she said. “I knew he was talking about me behind my back, as I heard him do with so many other people, and spreading false rumors.”
Some riders allege that they had to dodge sexual harassment, too. Sam told CyclingTips that Clark would regularly have inappropriate sexual conversations with members of the team, at one point suggesting that the women should masturbate prior to a race to maximise their performance. “But men should masturbate after a race,” he allegedly said, according to two witnesses. “That’s the reason I didn’t win much, because I always did it before,” he said, laughing.
Sam also claims that Clark propositioned her sexually – a detail confirmed independently by two other teammates. “But because he had so much charisma, he could always pull it off as a joke,” she said. “Sexual harassment guised as a joke; he would pass it off as ‘mucking around’.”
Clark strongly denies any sexual harassment ever took place.
In retrospect, Sam’s teammates feel remorse about not pulling Clark up on this perceived harassment. “Some of the stuff definitely crossed the line,” one told me, a little bashfully.
This was confirmed by yet another rider, who reflected that “[Clark] would talk about some of the [female] athletes’ bodies … I do wish I’d stood up for my teammates more in those days.”
[Responding to these allegations, Clark said “that’s completely false and incorrect. It was never reported. There was never anything reported. I mean, I have an Australian sense of humour and it’s a bit crass … And Americans, they can get a little bit funny. They don’t understand our humour. These stories go both ways, and that’s a really, really, really, bad thing to say.
“I really loved working with them. I really did. All these ladies would come to my house for a barbecue – I’ve got pictures of them all coming to my place and having a barbecue, laughing and talking – and, you know … nobody ever raised it. Nobody ever said, ‘hey Nick, I think you’re going a little bit too far, you know, that’s a little bit sexist or that’s a little bit harassing.’”
In follow-up emails, Clark claimed that the “BS about the sexual harrassment [sic]” – which four riders confirmed aspects of to CyclingTips – was maliciously motivated, the result of a falling out with Sam.
If anything, Clark claims, “the harrassment [sic] was towards me.”]
In the end, there was not a single clear fracture between Clark and the first wave of riders on his team – it was more an accumulation of indignities.
Sarah, who claims she was hit and berated by Clark, had enough one day and stopped coming back. Another rider broke down in a team meeting, infuriated about the bullying that she perceived as taking place. Sam says she was squeezed out after taking an opportunity as a guest rider elsewhere. In total, four out of the original six team members left within the first year and a half of the team’s inception, their places quickly filled by others.
But the athletes that fell out of Clark’s favour – each finding the limits of their own forgiveness for his perceived failings – were increasingly determined to stop Clark’s behaviour from repeating itself. So in September 2019, one of the victimised riders contacted the SafeSport department of USA Cycling to lodge a complaint alleging misconduct by Clark.
SafeSport is a body operating under the umbrella of each of the Olympic sports programs in the United States, and was established in 2017 with the objective of giving athletes – particularly juniors and female athletes – an independent avenue to report sexual and emotional harassment.
Its charter is to “recognise, reduce and respond to misconduct in sport”. The six primary types of misconduct are, USAC writes, “bullying, harassment, hazing, emotional misconduct, physical misconduct, and sexual misconduct”. Some riders of ProBike FC felt there was a case against Clarke on multiple counts.
After the complaint was lodged, the complainants say they had phone conversations with a representative from USAC to outline their side of the story.
For a brief moment, there was optimism among the riders that they could proceed down a path toward healing. Within a week, though, it seemed instead they’d reached a dead end.
There was, the riders say they were told, insufficient evidence to proceed further: it was their word versus his. “I do not believe that this incident reaches the level of a potential SafeSport violation,” USAC’s SafeSport director, Kelsey Erickson, wrote to one of the women, while also asking her to make contact if Clark started a juniors program.
Clark went unsanctioned, and was permitted to continue coaching. Indeed, Clark told me that he was never even contacted by USAC or SafeSport: “never, ever, not once.”
Over a period stretching many months, CyclingTips has made multiple approaches to USAC’s SafeSport department for comment or information on the case.
To date, we have received no response whatsoever – including to specific questions about whether Clark had ever been investigated, whether SafeSport was aware of the complaints about him, whether anything further had been done besides taking the rider testimonials, and why the complaint was unable to proceed further.
As for the complainants, they feel that the institutions that are supposed to protect them failed to come to their aid. At the very least, they feel that a proper investigation should have been conducted, and wasn’t.
It’s difficult to disagree with that assessment.
Concurrently to coaching the women’s cycling team, around 2018, Clark became fixated on expanding the store into a one-stop location for cyclists in the area, leasing a second storefront in the same strip. “One day … he seemed really manic and was like – ‘I have an idea. I’m starting a new business. I rented the place at the end of the strip,’” a former ProBike FC employee told me.
“He told us it was going to be a sports psychology lab. And I was like – ‘Nick … we don’t have a sports psychologist. We don’t have one of those people – what are you gonna do? And he was like, ‘Well, I’m going to get a degree, and in the meantime, we’re going to hire somebody, but I’m going to do it under my credentials. People will pay a lot of money for me to be their sports psychologist.’”
Clark – whose LinkedIn page says that he studied a Bachelor of Science – Psychology remotely from Colorado Technical University from 2017 to 2019 – was indeed, at the time, unqualified to practise as a sports psychologist. Nonetheless, when a search for an interim sports psychologist for the new Athlete Development Centre proved unsuccessful, Clark found a way around it – of sorts – hiring a doTerra essential oils salesperson to run the practice.
“She didn’t have any experience working with sportspeople, but [Nick] convinced her that as long as she knew how to talk about it, people would buy it,” I was told. “So that’s what she did. And he paid her a salary for six months … And people would go to her because he would tell them to. They all started buying essential oils because she was convincing them that essential oils will make you a better athlete.”
DoTerra – a Utah-based multi-level marketing company that has been described as a pyramid scheme – has had a long history of flying close to controversy. The company’s Wikipedia page has a lengthy “Controversies and Lawsuits” sub-heading, outlining various low points in the brand’s history.
These include times that “the company and its representatives came under fire … for misleading claims that their products could help prevent or cure diseases such as cancer, autism, Ebola, and more recently, COVID-19, even being the target of a warning from the Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission.”
In addition to the fit-out and rent of the clinic, CyclingTips was told, there was substantial investment in equipment, including an infrared sauna – along, presumably, with the full doTerra oil package worth more than $1,400.
Perhaps predictably, the sports psychology/essential oils clinic failed after about a year, but ProBike FC retained the lease. The facility was reshaped into a sports testing lab and gym, before eventually just becoming a storage facility for the bike shop.
The testing lab did have one positive outcome, however, as a stepping stone for Clark to build a relationship with Kelly Benefit Strategies – an elite-level development team on the east coast of the US that was a feeder to Human Powered Health (then Rally Cycling) and has a long history of advancing riders to the pro ranks.
Clark’s relationship with the team seemed to provide credibility in both directions: a pro cyclist with a long coaching background and a training facility, taking future pro cyclists under his wing.
“[Clark] started charging all of them to test them,” a source told me, “and then became a team sponsor.”
Clark has previously been described as Kelly Benefit Strategies’ technical director, but said later that “I did some training, coaching for the juniors, but other than that, I just basically was a sponsor. The shop was a sponsor and just provided all of this stuff at cost.”
The team’s director, meanwhile – Barcelona Olympian Nima Ebrahimnejad – is keen to downplay Clark’s involvement with the team.
“His support and involvement with the team was primarily as a shop owner and also organizer of shop rides which some of our riders would participate in,” Ebrahimnejad told CyclingTips in a statement. “He did not provide DS or coaching support for our Elite riders and more importantly we severed our relationship with Nick and the shop once we were made aware of him misrepresenting his cycling resume and experience.”
That severance took place in August 2020, but before then, Clark and Kelly Benefit Strategies had a friendly relationship. One photo (see above) shows a delighted Clark being handed a custom team jersey in the green and gold colours of Australian national champion.
Between the real and imagined teams that Clark was intertwined with, to the despair of the women who’d been alienated, his hold on the local cycling community seemed increasingly firm.
But his grip was about to slip.
After years of being swept up in a myth, the ProBike FC community was, perhaps, too invested in the lie to see the truth of Clark’s deception.
The lies were getting pretty audacious, though.
Multiple sources claimed that in the lead-up to the 2018 edition of Paris-Roubaix, Clark began saying that he had received an invitation to race in the famed Monument – arguably cycling’s most prestigious one-day race. Clark’s ticket to cobbled glory was, he said, through a journeyman relationship with an Italian Pro Continental team called Lipomo Pro Cycling.
“He holds up this licence, he shows me, and he was like – ‘I have a provisional pro licence which is what they give people when they come out of retirement,’” a member of the women’s team told me. Clark continued: “So now with this team [Lipomo], I’m on their roster and I can go race in the actual Roubaix.”
Clark did not race the 2018 edition of Paris-Roubaix – which he was 42 years old at the time of – for myriad reasons, large and small.
But perhaps the most significant factor is that there is no evidence of the existence of a Team Lipomo – not on the start list of Paris-Roubaix nor, indeed, anywhere else … apart from a bike shop in Falls Church.
“Nick all of a sudden had all these Lipomo kits,” my source continued. “They were blue, and had a UCI Europe Tour logo on them.” With the matching Colnago that Clark was riding at the time, he looked the part – but something was clearly off.
“I Googled Lipomo Pro Cycling because I thought it was weird that he didn’t post anything about the actual team,” a source told me. “There was no social media. There isn’t a single cycling team in the entire world that doesn’t have social media, because that’s how you get sponsors.
“I kind of always thought he was lying … But that was the first time I was like, ‘He’s a total scam artist.’”
It took longer for the rest of the community to catch up. Clark was a charismatic and generous person – always good for a deal on some shoes or kit, or, if you were particularly close, a free frame or bike. He also seemed aware that his generosity could help encourage people to overlook the cracks in his story.
“If you wanted good deals, you wouldn’t ask too [many questions] because he could quickly turn into someone who was rude, crude or cruel,” one former team member reflected. “If you made it into the inner circle, there was a murky but heavily implied understanding that you were only there at Nick’s will.”
Clark began giving Lipomo kits out to members of the local community, and soon enough it wasn’t just Clark that was repping Lipomo Pro Cycling Team.
On shop rides and on the streets of Northern Virginia and DC, there were flashes of blue and white – customers and friends of Clark’s – who “were riding around in this fake kit. I was so embarrassed for them,” a source recounts. “I just couldn’t understand … why wouldn’t you Google it and see that the team doesn’t exist?”
A UCI spokesperson confirmed to CyclingTips that there has never been a Lipomo cycling team racing on the UCI Europe Tour or registered elsewhere with the organisation. Indeed, there is no evidence of Team Lipomo’s existence online at all, other than in relation to Clark. Lipomo is a small town close to Como in Lombardy, with a population of around 5,000 people, and few obvious links to cycling.
As for the kit: a representative of Giordana – the manufacturer of the Lipomo Pro Cycling kit – said that they had few details about the origins of the team they had designed a kit for. The company confirmed that “[it] was a custom kit we did for ProBike FC in Virginia. They were based in Europe, Italy I believe, but I don’t know much about them other than Nick from ProBike was working with them.”
One of the most puzzling aspects of Clark’s entire cycling narrative, though, was a bit harder to get to the bottom of: his friendship with the two world champions, Johan Museeuw and Paolo Bettini.
In a 2020 interview, Clark claimed that he met his ‘good mate’ Museeuw in 1996 and “continued to talk with him all through my career until about the early 2000s when I left Europe and moved back to Australia. We finally ran into each other on a ride in Portugal where he and I were invited guests and we didn’t even know it. It was an instant reconnection and we speak to each other often and visit when we can.”
Museeuw, on the other hand, told CyclingTips that he “didn’t know him that good” and first met Clark in Portugal on a cycling tour, where Clark seems likely to have been a paying client and Museeuw a paid guest of honour.
Clark’s connection with Bettini appears to have occurred at a dealer event held in Flanders for cycling apparel brand Sportful, which Museeuw also attended. “We just rode miles and told war stories,” as Clark described it, before nebulously hinting that he and Bettini had gone into business together.
[When contacted by CyclingTips, Clark maintained that he knew Museeuw from a period of riding in Belgium in the 1990s, and that after refreshing Museeuw’s memory about this and proposing leading a ProBike FC tour to Belgium, with Museeuw as a guide, “he was all about the business” and at one point, even asked Clark to buy him an iPhone. Clark says he obliged.
An attempt to contact Paolo Bettini to verify his relationship with Clark went unanswered.]
Let’s play hypotheticals for a moment.
Say you’re suspicious about a bike shop owner’s stories of his life as a pro cyclist. Maybe something feels off about the kit he’s wearing; maybe something feels off about the banter. You can’t quite put your finger on it.
So what do you do? You Google him. And in Nick Clark’s case, if you’re expecting to find nothing, you’ll be surprised, because you’ll find quite a lot. Clark’s cycling background wasn’t just built on a foundation of custom bikes or fake team kits: there was a carefully curated digital trail, too.
Until 2020, the first page of results for ‘Nick Clark cyclist’ brought up a Wikipedia page corroborating details of his path into the sport and his racing career, the events he said he rode at and teams he said he rode for.
There was a time, about a year ago, when I swear that there were even references to Nick Clark the pro cyclist in articles in the New York Times, and the Arianna Huffington-owned Thrive Global. The latter was a loving profile of Clark, titled “The story of an entrepreneur, businessman, and cyclist.” Both have since been deleted.
One such appearance in Forbes, however, has survived the purge, and features an interview with Clark about his bike shop. “One thing that has given me an advantage in business is that I was a professional cyclist for over a decade before transitioning to business,” Clark told the interviewer. “It was a big part of my life, and now it gives a type of authority when customers visit our shop.”
[I contacted the author for more information about the origins of this article and whether it was paid promotion, but didn’t get a response.]
All of these media seeds appear to have been intentional, and effective – just more foundations for Clark to build his narrative onto.
But if you dig a little deeper – if, say, you’re going down every rabbit hole to figure out how this guy pulled off this years-long deception – perhaps you look into the edit history of those Wikipedia pages. And then you’ll realise that ‘truth’ is a rubbery concept that can be endlessly moulded into new forms, as long as someone is motivated enough.
Standalone Wikipedia pages corroborating details of Clark’s racing career were in existence at least as far back as 2019. But two years before that, edit logs show that someone with an IP address in or near Falls Church, Virginia, was changing the results of the Australian Time Trial Championships page to credit an unknown rider, ‘Nicholas Clark’, with national title wins – in years when the U23 category didn’t exist, and Clark would’ve been too old to race in it.
In October 2017, this user with a Virginia IP address – who had previously edited professional details relevant to Clark on other pages – credited Clark with a second place at the 1990 Junior Men’s Road World Championships. Later that day, this was revised to the 1991 event. Finally, these were replaced with a final claim: bronze at the 1993 Junior Men’s Road World Championships. This was, again, reverted to the legitimate results by another moderator.
These tussles went on for a while. After one failed sortie in 2020 – following a number of erroneous edits crediting Clark as an Australian and Worlds medallist – there was even a stern rebuke from a Wikipedia moderator:
Dead end. The amateur editorial path through Wikipedia wasn’t working. Time to call in the professionals.
In September 2019, a standalone Wikipedia page under the name of “Nicholas Clark (cyclist)” was created, and soon after, deleted, after an attentive Wikipedia moderator linked the page’s creation back to a third-party Wikipedia content creation brand called Procreative Writers.
A second page – “Nicholas P. Clark” – featured near-identical copy submitted by a different user and was active from early January 2020 until August 2020, when it was again deleted by Wikipedia moderators who fact-checked the results, and then, again, traced the page back to the mysterious Procreative Writers.
Nick Clark’s digital trail was the first line of defense in allowing his story to thrive, and I wanted to know how it happened. So, I got in touch with Procreative Writers.
Despite being totally transparent about the reason for my enquiries, Procreative Writers saw an opportunity to make a sale, inadvertently volunteering just how Clark had been able to rewrite the truth to his advantage.
For rates starting at US$1,199 (now US$1,399), I was told, Procreative Writers could create a Wikipedia page that would “appear on the first page of Google search on 97% of occasions”.
If any of the information you’re trying to claim is unsourced, no problem. If a subject doesn’t meet Wikipedia guidelines for notability, Procreative Writers can help overcome this by creating the necessary references – resources that, without proper fact-checking, could be exploited by the client to create a veneer of legitimacy.
“For an [undisclosed] additional cost,” I was told, “We will support you in article publications” in journals or news outlets “such as NYT … Thrive Global … Forbes” – all titles that ran articles referencing Nick Clark, the pro cyclist.
[As a side note, I will credit Procreative Writers with persistence in their follow-up. I continue to receive emails encouraging me to take up their offer for a service I didn’t ask for. Most recently, they offered a flash sale rate of 50% off. I declined.]
Clark’s online integrity was further bolstered by a personal website, nickclark.com, offering his coaching services. This no longer appears to be active – although until recently, a dev version of it was accessible.
Along with contradictory biographical statements – including that he competed in 10 international cycling events over seven years as a pro, and seven international events over 12 years – his website featured a picture of Clark signing his name on a shop wall in Flanders alongside great cobbled riders of the past.
“What makes me … me?” Clark asked himself hypothetically in a subheading on his website. “Dedication, tenacity, and mentorship are my middle names,” he answers.
A band of logos for publications including Vice, the BBC, Forbes, and the Huffington Post adorned the page, along with a manifesto of sorts from Clark. His mission: “Abandon Fear, Enjoy the Pain and create the next-level new breed of professional cyclists.”
“For a cyclist, pain is an important word,” Clark wrote. “Start living in pain. Start enjoying it. If you can’t handle pain, forget about it.”
For Nick Clark to maintain the pro road cyclist illusion – between the website, the Wikipedia page, the custom bike frames, the kit for a fictional team, and the memorabilia – required premeditation, an investment of time, and tens of thousands of dollars.
This was more than a little white lie getting out of hand: it was a years-long deception that swept hundreds of people along with it.
And the thing that struck me, the more I looked into it, was how effortless it seemed for him. You know when you’re watching a movie with a great character actor, you forget it’s a performance? Nick Clark seemed to inhabit the role so fully, and with such commitment, that I couldn’t help but wonder what other deceptions led up to that point.
Nick Clark, the retired pro cyclist, was a fiction. So, what was true?
As we already know, from that now-deleted interview with PezCyclingNews, Clark laid out a globe-trotting origin story that had brought him to Perth via Jakarta. That journey, Clark said, came with a double degree in economics and law and a stint in the military.
Those university qualifications were, Clark claimed, sponsored by the Australian Army – who were also “very supportive of ‘my other career’, cycling”.
That ‘other career’, as we have learnt, didn’t exist. Did the degrees? Did the military service?
I suppose I should probably flag that Nick Clark’s life story is in a constant state of flux. In some retellings of his history, he was born in Jakarta, Indonesia, and lived there until four years of age. In others, he lived there until he was five, sometimes six. In another version , he was born, raised and educated there until he was 11 years old. In another , he had lived and worked in Indonesia in “banking law and foreign investments” for more than 15 years. In another still , he had “vast experience in Indonesia and is fluent in both Bahasa and [has] a fair appreciation of Mandarin.” In 2014, he had apparently “worked in Jakarta for more than 15 years as a Foreign Advocate (Lawyer)”.
Sometimes, he left as a child. Sometimes, he returned to work for Indonesian commercial organisations. Sometimes, he never mentioned Indonesia at all.
Many of these realities are preserved in public documents issued through various corporate roles Clark held, prior to opening his bike shop and beginning a new life as a retired pro athlete.
Clark joined Alexium International, an Australian Securities Exchange-listed chemicals company – the gig before the bike shop – as chief financial officer in 2010, before a long and lucrative reign as CEO from 2013–2017. He had ascended to those roles off a CV stacked with apparently prestigious positions elsewhere in the business world, with particular experience in the mining sector.
Alexium market announcements make no mention of Indonesia, but do reference a career-opening stint in investment banking followed by roles based in Beijing at a company called Kiabo Securities, before a move to Perth to work for the Chinese company Citic Securities in roles including “Head of Commercial – Risk and Contracts”.
A request for confirmation of this from Citic went unanswered, although a different version of Clark’s resume elsewhere downgrades him to “Site Manager – Legal and Contracts”. Meanwhile, on Facebook Clark styled himself as Citic’s Beijing-based “Executive Manager” from 2008–2012. I can find no evidence of the existence of a company called Kiabo Securities.
In 2011, however, when Clark was managing director at a company called Palace Resources, there was no mention of either Kiabo or Citic in any announcements of his appointment, and reference to a commerce degree made a surprise appearance, alongside his law and economics degrees. Clark claimed to have “over 18 years experience in the business arena”, which cuts things pretty fine to the end of his high schooling.
A year later, with “more than 15 years” experience, he was appointed Chairman of Condor Blanco Mines – a business which was memorably described in The Australian as “The Condor racket … a scam from beginning to end”. Curiously, the market announcement of Clark’s Condor Blanco appointment made no mention of his senior roles at Palace Resources, Kiabo, Alexium, or Citic.
Other variations of Clark’s work history include:
- a stint at the now-defunct New York law firm Thacher Proffitt & Wood, which lost its headquarters in the World Trade Centre attack of September 11, 2001, and went out of business some time later
- “nearly seven years in merger and acquisitions” at Lehman Brothers, the 2008 collapse of which was the largest corporate failure in history and sparked the Global Financial Crisis
- a flashy-sounding role as “Head of Foreign Investments” at the China Construction Bank – one of the big four in that country – and,
- “various management and legal roles” in the US, including at Snap-On Tools.
Are any of these impossible? Certainly not – although his resume suggests a degree of fluency across multiple cultures and languages and industries, in overlapping time periods. Due to those high-profile business closures, some claims are now impossible to verify.
If Clark’s professional timelines prior to joining Alexium in 2011 are difficult to pin down, his qualifications should be a little more straightforward. Degrees have a start date and an end date, and universities have records. But there’s ambiguity there, too.
In 2017, Clark is referred to in Alexium’s annual report as ‘Dr. Nick Clark’ – a title that does not appear in the 2016 or 2018 reports, or indeed, almost anywhere else.
In 2014, he claimed to have an MBA from Columbia University. In 2013, he said he was a Yale Graduate from the prestigious CEO College. None of these qualifications appear to be set in stone, disappearing and reemerging from Clark’s own narrative at seemingly random points over the years.
But across the entire timeline – across both his business and cycling careers – there is consistent reference to a University of Sydney double-degree in Law and Economics, with Clark allegedly graduating in 1998. So, I worked forward from there.
The University of Sydney, when contacted by CyclingTips, said that “we have no record of that individual being a student or graduate of the University of Sydney”. Nobody of Clark’s name and date of birth had attended the university, in any capacity, in any degree.
To the Ivy League universities. The claim of being a Yale ‘graduate’ appears to have been a bit of creative license: CyclingTips can confirm only that Clark attended a two-day Yale CEO leadership seminar in December 2013 as CEO of Alexium.
Likewise, there is no evidence forthcoming that he holds an MBA from Columbia, despite Clark’s sworn testimony otherwise in a wrongful dismissal case involving an Alexium employee. A representative of Columbia University told me that Clark, instead, completed a short course, gaining a Certificate in Business Excellence (CIBE).
“He has attended a total of 18 days of programs (5 different programs),” CyclingTips was told. “There are no academic prerequisites to earn a CIBE.”
Meanwhile, a 2011 market announcement said that Clark held an MBA from Duke University, and a 2013 announcement said it came from New York University. These degrees don’t appear elsewhere in his chronology, and both institutions have no record of Clark’s attendance. And without an MBA or an undergraduate degree, what are we to make of a July 2015 claim in an Alexium shareholder presentation that Clark holds a PhD?
In fact, the only degree claimed by Clark that CyclingTips could actually verify is a Psychology degree from Colorado Technical University, achieved via distance education while running ProBike FC – well after his corporate career was done.
A recent version of Clark’s LinkedIn page claims a study period from 2017-2019; the university’s records indicate that he managed to qualify with Dean’s Honours in a period of just 18 months, from May 2018 to November 2019. It is during study for this degree – but prior to qualification – that Clark set up that short-lived sports psychology clinic, run by an essential oils salesperson.
Across his various resumes, with a few strokes of the keyboard, Clark has claimed more than 12 years of full-time study worth of academic qualifications – including three bachelor’s degrees, MBAs at three different universities, and a PhD – that he apparently never attained.
There are similar discrepancies in Clark’s professional certifications, too.
In formal market announcements to the ASX, Clark claimed to hold a New York State Bar admission, and a CPA in the US with reciprocal qualifications in the UK and Australia – all things that he conceded under oath in an Alexium legal case were untrue.
Years later, in a recent iteration of his LinkedIn profile, Clark claimed that he was licensed to practice law in New South Wales, although when contacted by CyclingTips the Law Society of NSW stated that “our records indicate he does not hold a current Australian practising certificate issued in NSW, nor has he been admitted to the Supreme Court Roll of Solicitors in NSW”.
I could go on, but you probably get the picture.
Across his various resumes,Clark has claimed more than 12 years of full-time study worth of apparently fictitious academic qualifications – including three bachelor’s degrees, MBAs at three prestigious universities, and a PhD.
In isolation, those fabrications are one thing – but when they underpin shareholder perception of publicly listed companies, it all becomes even more problematic. It also appears that there were several companies in play simultaneously.
In February 2013, when Clark relocated to South Carolina as CEO of the chemical company Alexium – having joined as CFO in 2010 – a separate market announcement the same month showed him moving to the US as president of the Canadian mining company Reliance Resources, having been their CFO since mid-2012. He was still employed as Reliance’s vice president of commercial in early 2014 – more than three years after joining Alexium. Clark left Reliance in October 2014.
Neither Alexium nor Reliance announcements to the market indicated that he was working anything other than a full-time role, and remuneration reports and recommendations did not indicate employment on a part-time basis. Alexium paid relocation allowances for Clark to move to the US – while Clark was holding down both jobs, presumably without either knowing of the other’s existence. Clark’s directorships in Reliance Resources, Palace Resources, and Alexium were not disclosed in multiple contemporary annual reports.
From a corporate governance perspective, it gets worse. In April 2014, while Clark was still VP at Reliance Resources, the company made an announcement to the market of an intention to purchase American Iron Corp – a company that Nicholas Clark himself was the CEO, treasurer, and president of. This transaction never occurred, and Clark and Reliance Resources had parted ways by the end of 2014. American Iron Corp, based in the tax haven of Wyoming, was dissolved in 2015. [Reliance Resources is no longer operational; an attempt to contact a former CEO did not elicit a response.]
On the latest version of Clark’s LinkedIn page, neither Alexium, Reliance, nor American Iron Corp appear during this time period, although a separate role altogether – as full-time principal consultant at Viaticus Capital, a company owned by Alexium’s one-time executive chairman, Gavin Rezos – does.
For a time, a branch of Alexium International, Viaticus Capital, NPC Advisory Group, and NKG International – four entities that Clark was simultaneously involved with – all shared the same contact details and Washington DC address, just around the corner from the White House.
Shortly after, Clark was also acting as a strategic advisor for yet another unrelated company, Kiernan Group Holdings, with his bio at that time claiming that he was the founder of Alexium, Viaticus, and a Canberra-based military drone company called Department 13. [Department 13 denies he was a founder.]
As with his professional cycling history, when you’re glancing at individual claims superficially, there’s little to arouse suspicion. But surveyed as a whole, the overlapping and conflicting timelines of Clark’s past are a confusing, contradictory thing.
Take, for instance, the period from 2014 to 2017. During this time, according to compiled claims from various versions of Clark’s narrative, he was:
- Undertaking and completing a PhD, possibly at Columbia – a degree that would take five years of full-time study
- enrolling in a psychology degree
- holding down two senior executive roles for ASX-listed companies – neither of which appears to have been known to each other, while simultaneously
- earning a post-graduate certificate at Columbia
- completing a number of other short Ivy League courses
- authoring a book (reviews were mixed)
- winning three Stevie business awards (Clark was nominated by a PR firm, Dian Griesel International/DGI Comm, acting on behalf of Alexium),
- working as an adjunct professor in International Business and Organisational Management at Marymount University
- serving as a delegate on a “fact-finding mission” in Cuba for US Congress
- serving as chair of the board of Congressional School
- serving on the board of the American Security Project
- serving on the board of Council for a Liveable World
- serving on the board of the Centre for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation
- serving as a director of the America Responds With Love charity
- opening a bike shop and “sports psychology” clinic in Falls Church
- coaching a cycling team in Italy
- moonlighting as a Continental-level road cyclist, and
- “turning pro” as a downhill mountain-biker.
In the later stages of his business career, Nick Clark was evidently a very busy, much-in-demand man. It must have been exhausting.
Immediately before he started cosplaying as a professional cyclist, Clark’s most prominent and prestigious role was as CEO of Alexium. That’s a chemical company headquartered in Perth, Western Australia, with links to cycling – for a season, it co-sponsored an Australian National Road Series team. The majority of its operations, however, are out of Greenville, South Carolina.
Alexium was founded in 2010 by entrepreneurs – not including Nick Clark – that acquired the rights to “Reactive Surface Treatment” technology developed by the US Air Force for protection against chemical warfare and biological hazards.
For many years, the company retained ties to the Department of Defense, submitting tenders for flame-retardant uniforms and winning development contracts. Alexium’s website today features multiple images of military and tactical apparel, and development of products for this market was a major focus through Clark’s years at the helm. Numerous market announcements and interviews suggested that lucrative military contracts were just around the corner, with the company declaring around half a million dollars in lobbying expenses to this end.
Today, things are a little less cloak and dagger: Alexium’s most viable product line is a cooling technology for the surface of mattresses.
During his time at the helm, Clark was the very public face of the company, regularly interviewed in industry publications and podcasts and playing a major role in building buzz for the company’s innovations. Alexium eventually broke into the S&P/ASX300 – the top 300 companies listed on the market – which, in turn, helped to drive the company upward.
Alexium’s share price peaked at AU$1.17 during Clark’s time as CEO, although typically hovered around the AU$0.60 mark. On the flipside, the company recorded losses of greater than US$2.5 million for every year since 2010.
Meanwhile, Clark’s total remuneration package grew from US$224,274 in 2013 to US$1,380,600 in 2016 – a year in which Alexium experienced its worst losses to date, over US$15 million. From 2016 to 2017, the company recorded two strikes – an indication of shareholder unrest about the apparent imbalance between company performance, and board and executive remuneration.
Clark also held (or holds) almost nine million shares in the company – a statement which probably sounds more impressive than it is, seeing as at time of writing, Alexium’s share price is $0.06 – a substantial drop from its all-time high.
Clark played a major role as a cheerleader for the company, but testimony from within suggests that his leadership had its limits.
One Alexium staff member, speaking to CyclingTips on the condition of anonymity, was hired during Clark’s time as CEO. This individual – who worked as a lab supervisor – came from a military and law enforcement background, and told me that he had no relevant qualifications and no experience in chemistry at the time. He was, he admits, hired purely on the basis of being riding buddies with Clark.
Around 2013 – years before the bike shop – Clark was already sniping Strava KOMs and, I’m told, making the claim he was a World Championships medallist. [Clark strongly disputes this: “I never talked about being a medallist in 2013-2014 … absolutely not.”]
In the office, things seemed a bit off, too. “There was stuff going on with Nick and people in the business,” the lab supervisor told me. “[Clark’s detractors] thought I was a plant for Nick.”
Their friendship eventually soured, and now this individual acknowledges Clark’s failings as a leader. “He treated people like crap. He would go off on people, cuss them out big time in front of other people … not very professional for your typical CEO.”
CyclingTips understands that there were at least two wrongful dismissal cases brought against Alexium which shone a light on Clark’s temper. In one response to an employee request to attend a family vacation, Clark responded “Let’s make one thing clear. I don’t give [a] fuck what it is”; in another email he colourfully described someone as having “more shit in his system than a septic tank”.
Eventually, Clark’s old riding buddy became suspicious. “I looked at him initially as a friend,” this employee said. “But something about him and the side stories didn’t make sense to me … he went from saying he used to race as a pro; he was head acquisition attorney for Lehman Bros; he was a JAG [military lawyer] in the Australian military; he was a peacekeeper …”
Like others I have spoken to, this employee gradually built a perception that Clark was, like an actor, inhabiting a series of roles. And indeed, while during his Alexium days Clark is recognisably the same guy as he was when running ProBike FC, his demeanour and presentation is starkly different. Video footage of the time shows that despite his temper, he was far more polished in his corporate life – a dramatic contrast to the sometimes coarse, hyper-masculine persona he had at the bike shop.
More worryingly, given Alexium’s turbulent performance on the stock market, this employee described Clark the CEO as – just like Clark the cyclist – “somebody building an eggshell with nothing in it.”
Meanwhile, tension was ratcheting up inside the company as it struggled to hold its appeal for investors. Emails filed in court as part of a case against Alexium – now sealed, but viewed by CyclingTips – reveal a man scrambling to retain a sense of control. “If we send this report out to market with ZERO….our stock will get slammed and we will be on a path to being fucked!”, one of Clark’s emails reads.
“We are getting fucking smash [sic] on the stick [sic] market and I’m getting pissed off … we have to be creative now otherwise we will end up with a 5c fucking stock again,” reads another.
CyclingTips contacted Alexium for this story. A representative confirmed Clark had worked there, but otherwise declined any further comment. It is unclear whether the company knew that its former CEO did not have almost all of the qualifications or accreditations that were repeatedly claimed in market announcements.
Clark, meanwhile, told me that “I took a company from (a share price of) $0.03c to $1.12. I was the best thing since sliced bread. I could have killed the queen of England and still had all the supporters in the world, but when Georgia passed away and I lost my shit … and we went down from $1.12 down to .75c, the wolves started coming out.”
By its nature, the stock market is built on the back of winners and losers. Clark is correct that there was money made by investors – if they bought in low and cashed out at the top of the curve. But equally, those who retained their shares or bought in at that point – expectant of further growth based on Clark and Alexium’s hyperbolic market statements – would go on to lose out dramatically when the share price slumped again. The bustling Alexium messageboard at Hot Copper – Australia’s biggest stock trading forum – is testament to both realities, and also hosts a thread where shareholders have begun picking their way through Clark’s complicated backstory.
Around 2014, shortly after Clark relocated permanently to the United States from Perth, Brigadier General Stephen A. Cheney – a retired, decorated Marine Corps Inspector General and commander – was appointed to the Alexium board as a non-executive director.
Cheney, a military career man who retired in 2001, was the former Deputy Executive Secretary to U.S. Defense Secretary Dick Cheney (no relation) and has spent his later years serving on a number of prestigious boards. He’s the CEO of the American Security Project, was appointed by then-US Secretary of State John Kerry to the Foreign Affairs Policy Board, and also sat on the International Security Advisory Board.
Alexium and Nick Clark’s appreciation for Brigadier General Cheney seems to go both ways: at one point Clark shared a Washington DC office with Cheney, and was in turn appointed to the board of Cheney’s American Security Project, a role that saw him rubbing shoulders with several US Senators as well as former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.
Clark apparently enjoyed the influence his role brought him. In a 2015 interview for The Nude Investor – a now-inactive website – he bragged about “spend[ing] more days on the Hill and with the Department of Defense in front of congressman [sic] and senators, generals and admirals etc than I do at home.” An interview with the Sydney Morning Herald covered similar beats:
In retrospect, perhaps those lofty links to the Department of Defense were the beginnings of a new chapter in Clark’s story.
Prior to Nick Clark’s involvement with Alexium – then heavily focused on pursuing contracts with the US military – there was seldom any reference to military service in his past, and a 2013 media release announcing his appointment as CEO makes no mention of it.
From 2015 onwards – perhaps to legitimise his standing in the company as it vied for Department of Defense contracts, or to impress Cheney and Hagel – ever more expansive tales of service in the Australian Defence Force were woven into Clark’s backstory.
By 2017, it was a headline feature. In an interview with SmartCEO Magazine – another shuttered publication – “former U.N. peacekeeper Nick Clark” explained how he “is working to keep today’s soldiers safe”. Interestingly, around the same time, Alexium was vying for a subcontract to supply flame-retardant treatments to the UN for refugee tents.
Around 2017, Clark’s now-deleted Facebook page listed a period of military service in the Australian Regular Army beginning in 1991. Clark’s LinkedIn page circa 2020 eventually converged on a five-year timeline of military service as an army officer in the Australian Army, running from July 1991 to October 1996. To become an officer with qualifications, as Clark has claimed, would require four years of study at Duntroon.
Rubbing shoulders with decorated Alexium board members, Clark was a regular attendee at functions in Washington DC, and at these he was pictured wearing these medals on the left side of his chest, indicating that he earned them himself. From our left to right, they are the Australian Service Medal, the Humanitarian Overseas Service Medal, and the Australian Defence Medal – along with a St Johns Ambulance Service Medal: an honour he has never mentioned, which would have required 12 years “efficient service” as a volunteer.
There’s doubt about whether the medals appear in the prescribed order, however, and the timeline of the medals and the military service he claims frequently contradict other known facts about Clark’s past. The 1991-1996 period of service he lists on LinkedIn, to choose one example, overlaps with his last two years of schooling, at the elite Guildford Grammar in Perth, where Clark appears to have graduated at the end of 1992.
By the time Clark had moved on from Alexium, it appears his military service was so tightly wound into the fabric of his life that it was necessary for him to then fold it into his narrative as a cyclist. By 2020, Clark was claiming that the military supported him through both his cycling career and his tertiary studies.
If you don’t hold all of the pieces of the puzzle, that statement might pass muster. The Australian Department of Defence told CyclingTips that the Army at the time did have ad hoc arrangements with external universities if the Defence Force Academy did not offer a chosen degree, although it was unclear whether the University of Sydney was one of them – CyclingTips understands that the rival University of NSW would have been the first likely port of call. As for supporting a professional cycling career, it’s a maybe: during the 1990s “these options were limited,” according to a Defence spokesperson.
But as the University of Sydney has no record of Clark and the road cycling career was false, the overlapping narratives could never have coexisted.
[Clark disputes this, maintaining that he did indeed attend the University of Sydney, and that he “got money from the military as a student”, “but I never finished”. This admission also instantly makes many of Clark’s on-record market announcements untruthful.]
Did Clark ever actually serve in the Australian Army, though? Quite possibly, but it’s not clear-cut. A Defence spokesperson said that “without further information on Mr. Clark’s service, for example his service number, Defence cannot conclusively confirm if he was a member of the Australian Army.”
As for his period of foreign service as a UN Peacekeeper in Cambodia, that stretches plausibility.
The Cambodian operation was a tense, dangerous one, where 19 countries combined forces under the UN umbrella to help usher democracy in after the ravages of the Khmer Rouge and Vietnamese occupation. In total, 1,279 Australian ADF personnel served as peacekeepers, with forces withdrawing from August–November 1993. That’s a pretty narrow window for a 1992 high school graduate to get through basic training and onto overseas deployment.
There is no Nick Clark on the Cambodia nominal roll – which strongly suggests that he didn’t serve there, but is not conclusive, as he could have requested omission from the record. That seems unlikely, however, given his multiple public statements about his service and the prominent display of his medals and patches, which adorned his office walls in the Alexium days.
Even more tellingly, the Australian forces working with the UN in Cambodia were signallers – a highly specialised regiment – and they were deployed at a time when Clark would almost certainly still have been at basic training. A smaller second force – again, highly specialised, removing land-mines – went later, but this was an engineers regiment.
Questioned on his military record, Clark told me that he was “just a soldier”, serving from 1991 to 1996 – at first in an Army Reserve infantry regiment, and then in the Regular Army. The dates of the ‘Reserve’ part of that statement seem to conflict with the minimum age of enlistment. It also seems to contradict an Artillery Corps hat badge that was framed on his Alexium office wall.
Artillery regiments were not deployed in Cambodia, and Clark has never publicly mentioned being an army engineer or signaller. Clark does not appear in a nominal roll for the infantry platoon (from the Townsville-based 2/4 Royal Australian Regiment) that went to Cambodia during the conflict.
Clark’s public statements about his military service have varied over the years, intermittently mentioning service in Malaysia in addition to being a “UN Peacekeeper” in Cambodia.
One of the medals Clark has worn – the Humanitarian Overseas Service Medal – was not awarded for Australian Army service in either Cambodia or Malaysia, and based on his claims, he would not have been eligible for that award as well as the Australian Service Medal. Meanwhile, based on his earlier claim to have been an officer, he could never have served overseas, at all, given his periods of service and the study period required to attain that rank.
In military circles, wearing a service decoration that has not been earned is a taboo act known as ‘stolen valour’; it’s also a federal offence in Australia. However, in the absence of Clark’s service number and express permission to access his records, this cannot be definitively proven.
[In an initial interview, Clark agreed to provide his service number for fact-checking purposes, but ultimately declined further comment or interviews prior to publication.]
Whether he was a returned serviceman or not – and that’s looking shaky, based on the publicly available records – Clark seemingly had an abiding interest in the military and emergency services.
When he rapidly departed from Alexium and opened the bike shop, many of his closest friends in Falls Church served on the local police force, or were retired members of the military. Few of those who were close to Clark during his time at the bike shop, however, recall him mentioning his own military service. At that point, his expensive toys were high-end bikes – not assault rifles.
Yes, that is foreshadowing.
Let’s go back to that complicated time and place in Clark’s narrative: Falls Church, in that bike shop at the end of the strip across from the church.
There, in mid-2020, Clark’s past began to catch up to him.
From about 10,000 words ago, you’ll remember that Clark either did – or didn’t, who even knows any more – take a Strava KOM. A disgruntled Strava rival told a friend about his doubts, who told another friend, who told another friend. Slowly, over a year or so, the strange story of the fabricated professional cycling career began to leak out.
One tipping point came in August 2020, when an elite-level Australian rider of the 1990s heard about the pro cyclist that never existed. A Facebook post he made went semi-viral among that community, attracting 345 comments. Some of those people – who worked hard for their own real-life pro careers and saw Clark’s deception as a sporting version of stolen valour – contacted teams that he said he was involved with, and some of them contacted ProBike FC.
In an email to CyclingTips, Clark claimed there was a campaign of cyber-bullying against him: “threats on my life, tormenting, intimidation, bullying, and the disgusting comments made about how my late wife passed away … a handful of horrible humans spent every waking minute during COVID [in 2020] to try and destroy me.”
Given the gleeful, sometimes crass tone of the Facebook posts that I have seen, there is little reason to doubt Clark’s account here, and it goes without saying that CyclingTips does not condone harassment of Clark.
Clark says that “they failed” at destroying him – but they were successful at exposing Clark’s cycling embellishments. The whispers in the Falls Church cycling community became louder, and then, like the breaking of an enormous wave, it was the beginning of the end for Nick Clark, the retired pro road cyclist.
In August 2020, Clark called a meeting at the shop, with all the remaining and new members of the women’s team there, as well as close friends and employees of the store. One of the women who had stuck by Clark – and had been turned against her former teammates by him – paints a picture of Clark in front of his supporters, breaking into tears. “I’ve been stripped,” he said.
“I’m so sorry – I’ve made some things up. I really regret it,” he allegedly said, although she says he stopped short of a full admission or, indeed, outlining any specifics of what he was actually sorry for. “He knew that things were coming to a head,” a witness told me, “but he wasn’t crying because he wanted us to feel sorry for him – he was crying because he got caught.”
Even in this moment, I was told, he took little accountability, characterising his downfall as a “witch hunt” and blaming “Australian keyboard warriors” and one of the departed riders, Sam, for his unravelling.
Clark maintains that he made a “widely circulated” apology and confession in September 2020, which was “sent to everybody that [he] had email addresses for” – although it is worth noting that none of my sources for this story had received it, and it does not appear on any of the store’s social media platforms or website.
Despite this Damascus moment, Clark promised to stick around. “He said he loved us and he would be committed to the team if we could understand some of the things he’d done,” a source told CyclingTips.
That offer proved hollow. With trust eroding, Clark steadily began to withdraw from the community and by the end of the year the shop had been sold on to his long-time mechanic, Alex Manente. [Manente declined to comment when I approached him for this story, saying only that “he hurt me, my reputation and all the cycling community of the area.”]
The ProBike FC women’s team, ambassadorships, podcast, and other ephemera of Clark’s time at the store were, likewise, brought to an end. His last contact with the ProBike FC women’s team was an email, just before Christmas 2020.
In part, it read: “I have deep regret for how this has affected you all, and I will forever have that. I am completely responsible for my actions; it is unfortunate, though, that although a lot of information was correct, that not all was exactly accurate or fair … I own my mistake and again am deeply and whole heartily [sic] sorry for it. The loss of friendships is the hardest to accept.”
Over the years that Clark owned Probike FC, he’d built it up from nothing to become the hub of an entire community. He was charismatic and charming and those who knew him thought he was their friend, but he was also not the person they thought he was. It was an elaborate fiction, maintained for years and at considerable expense, used to legitimise his business, secure coaching clients, and feed his ego. The ‘Pro’ in Probike FC was a fiction, a fraud, a scam.
The (non-fictitious) teams Clark was involved with were left rattled. Nima Ebrahimnejad of Kelly Benefit Strategies – a team that Clark sponsored and coached junior riders from – told me that “as an organization we are very disturbed by his actions and question how and why a person would do such a thing.“
But it was the riders of ProBike FC women’s team that were the closest to Clark, and who have taken it the hardest.
“He was in a position of power that allowed him to prey on people that looked up to him for advice and leadership. It was an abuse of power,” one of the women on the team told me, forcefully, the anger evident in her voice. “The way he used his clout as a former pro – it was almost like a false God,” another said.
For those that were in Clark’s orbit, more than a year later, it’s still raw: the more they reflect on it, the more they seem to find new depths to the deception. Clark characterises it as a single lie that got out of hand; several others view it as a more foundational assault on their sense of self, and ability to trust.
“We were friends,” one woman tells me, almost tripping over her words, choked with sadness. “He didn’t have to do this – make up these stories. He could have just been a guy that owned a bike shop, and that would have been enough … he just ruined it all. Why would he do that?! He didn’t have to do that!”
He really did a number on us. We’re just collateral damage for him.
Close friendships were suddenly severed, and those that were left behind are still picking up the pieces. Many of those I approached for the story did not feel that they had sufficient closure, or were too afraid to speak on the record; one told me that he “just wanted to put it behind me”.
“For three or four years I was significant and then at a moment’s notice, I was insignificant,” a former friend of Clark’s told me. “At the beginning I was just so hurt. And after that, it was almost like a death of somebody – when you’re really sad … and after that, I got angry.
“He really did a number on us – we’re just collateral damage for him.”
Others have struggled to regain a sense of self in the months since. A former team member, articulating the fall-out, explained that “I felt like I couldn’t trust others. I haven’t raced since. I don’t even want to ride on the road anymore.”
For the women who’d first been forced out of ProBike FC’s racing team – who felt they’d seen red flags and been gaslighted in return – there were some flickerings of vindication, but that was tempered with the considerable emotional fall-out. As one woman I spoke to put it: “he could have told me the sky was green and I would have believed him … how do you come back from that?”
Alexium shareholders that I spoke to felt similarly deceived by the fantastical market announcements that the company made, which have still not been delivered on.
There’s an abiding sense of shame, too – shame that people were “stupid” for not spotting the lie and not preventing it from repeating and expanding itself over a span of years. “You feel complicit. You feel shame that you’ve been taken in …” one former acolyte of Clark’s told me, trying to articulate the conditions that incubated Clark’s deception. “There are so many reasons why silence happens.”
She paused, then with deliberation, continued. “Isolation – that’s what it is. You feel so alone. He has destroyed so many people. People have taken so much time to heal from this.”
Some of them still haven’t.
In the course of dozens of interviews over well over a year, a few words kept coming up: Sociopath. Liar. Narcissist. Another term emerged: pseudologica fantastica. Others spoke of the experience as a kind of folie a deux – a shared delusion, where others are caught up in another’s lie, coming to nestle inside of it with the liar.
For the victims, the treachery of it is that they never realised it was happening. When you’re deep in it, one of my sources explained, “it is a trance. You’re in the thrall of [him]. But there’s a point where you have to feel OK about putting aside the trance … to explain why you’ve allowed yourself to live with these lies that you know at some level – everybody knows – that there is a problem here.
“There is cognitive dissonance at work, because you’ve invested so much into that relationship with him.”
He could have told me the sky was green and I would have believed him …
Nine months since ProBike FC was sold on, it’s almost back to the way it was when Clark first started it. There’s a good mechanic. There are nice bikes on the floor, and there’s a weekly shop ride.
But some things have changed, too. The AG2R jerseys hanging from the ceiling are gone, along with the UCI Worlds bronze medal and the national champion’s jersey, all of which came from who knows where and have gone back there. The ProBike FC name has been retired, and the shop – now under the mechanic’s ownership – has been renamed Vida Ciclista.
Clark’s imagined past is now part of the shop’s real one, and the tale of the pro at ProBike FC is becoming one of those confounding collective mysteries that has left hundreds of cyclists in the broader DC area bemused. For them, the book has closed.
But just as Nick Clark evolved from soldier to CEO to cyclist, the metamorphoses hadn’t ended.
Not far from Falls Church, across the road from an Exxon service station and a small strip of shops not unlike the one where Vida Ciclista – formerly ProBike FC – still stands, is a big red brick building.
Out the front is a big sign that says “We buy guns”.
The building houses a veteran-run weapons store that has a bustling online presence and an Instagram page that boasts 75,000 followers. There, the proprietors post their wares – assault rifles, sniper rifles, butterfly knives – with hashtags like #igmilitia, #ar15porn, and #2ndamendment. There’s merch, too – “defund gun control”, reads one baseball cap.
The gun shop has a weapons training side-business, and it’s here that you’ll find Nick Clark, their training director, now.
Clark was NRA-certified as a pistol, rifle, and shotgun instructor in the last few months of 2020, just as his cycling narrative was unravelling. “Nick has passion in his job,” raves one individual on Google Reviews.
In an Instagram post from January 2021, he’s yelling encouragement – “letsgoletsgoletsgo” – as a student shoots a rifle and reloads. In February 2021, Clark stands in a snowy expanse, tactical belt around his waist, providing private instruction. On the same day that the US Capitol was being stormed a few kilometres away, Clark is seen at the centre of three guys with assault rifles, advancing down a shooting range. The sound of machine gun fire echoes off the walls, deafening in its force and fury.
Depending on who’s asking, Clark’s story has shifted again. Some say he’s from the Australian Special Air Service Regiment (SAS) – “almost like a green beret,” was how one source heard Clark had explained it. To others, he’s a former paratrooper and an acclaimed sharpshooter. Some said they’ve heard he was a JAG in the Australian Army, and others that he was offering his services as a personal security consultant.
In his 2022 bio for an active shooter training facility Clark established with a colleague from the gun shop, he claims to be “a former officer with the Department of Corrections having served in a number of units, from SuperMax wings, to the emergency response and hostage response unit and drug squad as an active drug dog handler.” He’s in the process of completing a “Masters in Science – Criminal Justice with a concentration in Homeland Security,” apparently.
It’s a striking evolution. Even when you factor in his claimed military service, the Nick Clark of today bears little resemblance to the Nick Clark that people thought they knew in the years prior.
Over more than a year down the rabbit warren of this story, I have spoken to dozens of people that knew Clark from ProBike FC, Alexium, and businesses prior to that. Unanimously, they say that he wasn’t a gun nut, didn’t talk much about the military, and cycling seemed to be his main passion. Five years ago, remember, he was on the board of peace-loving organisations like the Council for a Liveable World, and the Centre for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.
But Nick Clark is not so much a single fixed reference point as a state of constant evolution.
From 2016-2017, corporate records show a company called ‘Moderamen’ operated from a Falls Church address. For a time, that was a business consulting service. At some point since, it morphed into something else.
As of 2021, Moderamen’s website – now deleted – touted its “inclusive customized security strategies to ensure our cleint’s [sic] complete protection.” Among its services were “personal and executive protection” from armed elite ex-military bodyguards, “with extensive firearms training, hand to hand combat training, and combat and tactics”.
This elite bodyguard company’s governor and agent: Nick Clark.
Truth is a fragile thing. It can be warped and reshaped countless times, but with each twist and fold it becomes more brittle. At a point, it snaps or tears, and you realise it was maybe never the truth at all.
Nick Clark is a cyclist, a soldier, a CEO, a gun for hire. Nick Clark is, maybe, none of those things.
In a tangled web of contradictions and overlapping timelines across several continents, it’s hard to say, really, who Nick Clark is.
Across all of his many lives – as wildly diverse as they are – he has projected a polished facade of success. It’s a deception that is a house of fractured mirrors, reflecting countless slightly different but warped versions of reality out to those he encounters, and back onto himself.
Those are, often, soft deceptions. But they accumulate, and they leave a trail: athletes that he coached, employees that he forced out of roles, and those that lost a friend that they never really knew.
That legacy of loss can’t be measured in dollars or distance, because at its core, it’s a loss of trust; a loss of self. When a deception is all-encompassing, where do you go from there? How do you process that? The next time someone tells you something, can you believe them? Can you believe anyone, really? Can you believe yourself?
That is a quiet violence inflicted on the mind, that you don’t feel happening until it’s too late. It’s there, though. This is not a story without victims.
But this is not just a tale of a single deceiver and those that fell under his spell – it’s an allegory for the global assault on truth. And that’s why it matters: if the news cycle over the past few years has shown us anything, it’s that reality itself is under siege, and the institutions that we should be able to trust are either unable or unwilling to do a thing about it.
That can be political parties, or governments, or presidents. It can also be more mundane: like the board of a chemical company that never noticed its CEO claiming MBAs and a PhD from a rotating cast of elite universities, or the SafeSport department of a cycling federation that seems not to have pursued allegations of misconduct against him.
Life is a series of little deceptions, but as a snowball grows it can form an avalanche of destruction. The tale of Nick Clark is vast in scale and broad in scope, but it’s also a microcosmic view of a broader societal illness. When reality is under attack, it reminds us how easily we allow ourselves to be deceived – and how we deceive ourselves. By remaining silent. By reinforcing a lie. By allowing the cycles of abuse and deception to repeat.
In September 2019, Nick Clark went for a bike ride that would ultimately, through a series of ripples and circumstantial connections over the next year, bring that cycle of his life to a close.
But what’s the next chapter, and who’ll be left picking up the pieces?
About a year after I started working on this story and about a year before you’re reading it, having followed every lead and then a few more, I tried one last email address I had for Nick Clark. To my surprise, I got a response.
A day or two later, we were face to face on a Google Meet call. Clark’s profile picture, before he toggled his camera on, was an assault rifle.
I expected flat denial, legal threats, and a string of ‘no comments’. After a two-hour-long chat, I’m still trying to deconstruct what I got.
He wanted me to tell the human story behind his misdeeds, and while I don’t owe him anything, I think that’s as good a place as any to start.
In 2016, Nick Clark’s wife had just died. He lived in a foreign country. He was under strain at work. So he started a new chapter, opened a bike shop and tried to escape from these jagged realities.
“What started off as something small – trying to pump myself up – ended up just getting out of control,” Clark told me. “I became such a prominent figure in the community … and I didn’t have any self confidence, [so] I genuinely believed that the community I’d created was based on the fact that people enjoyed the story.
“You get to a point when you need to continue a story … and there [were] two ways that I could go to bed at night. There was like: ‘OK, guys, I just want to let you know, this is all made up’ – and trust me, the sleepless nights thinking about how to go about that. It was torturous.
“But every time I wanted to go down that path, I kept on going ‘I don’t have anything else. I’ve got nothing else. I’ve lost my wife. I’m raising two kids by myself in a country where I’ve got no family and now I need to make this business stick.’ Like, what am I going to do? I can’t … I’ve got to keep going. I’ve got to keep going. Because if I don’t, I’ll lose it all. Which I effectively did anyway.”
Clark doesn’t deny much of what I put to him. A lot of the cycling memorabilia – including that World Championships bronze medal – was bought on eBay, Clark tells me, and he maintains that he did actually meet Johan Museeuw in the late-1990s, during a failed self-funded attempt to make it as a pro. [I could not independently verify this narrative, although Museeuw told me he first met Clark in Portugal, more than 20 years after that.]
Clark is adamant that with the community he built around his bike store, and the women’s team, he was onto a good thing. Pure motives; real friendships. But nine months on from Clark stepping away from the shop, all of the people I spoke to feel differently. They feel he charmed them with a deception, trapped them in a coercive relationship, and exploited their trust.
I can relate to the ‘charm’ part. Clark’s a good talker, and he’s got a keen observational eye. But I can also see that there can be an opposite side to the coin, when the observation becomes calculated, almost chilling. At one point, in the middle of mentioning Georgia’s death – an early morning heart attack, he says – he looks at me and, his voice steeling a little bit, says “I see the wedding ring on your finger. I would hate for you to ever have to go through losing your wife.” He repeats that line in a follow-up email, in which he also casually mentions how he has sued his fair share of journalists. I tell him I see that comment as a veiled threat. He replies that “there was a threat”.
Georgia’s death is repeatedly presented by Clark throughout the early stages of our conversation as the moment that the deceptions began. “I said once [that] losing your wife can’t be an excuse for fabricating something, but I’m giving myself a little bit of a leave pass,” he told me at one point, as he was outlining how and why he’d let the pro cyclist myth grow out of his grasp.
Thinking back now, I wonder whether the fact that he’d left that life behind – that he’d been found out – meant that chapter was closed. The performance had finished; there was no wriggle room left to deny what I was putting to him about that period.
But before Georgia died – before he even met her – there were other deceptions, and I knew about them too.
So slowly, we began working our way through almost 30 years of contradictions. The military service, the accreditations, the corporate backstory – all knotted together like old headphone cables at the bottom of a drawer.
Slowly, it became untangled.
At first reluctantly – and then, seemingly, like a weight was lifting – Clark admitted that he doesn’t have a bachelor’s degree in economics or law, an MBA from Columbia, or a PhD. Despite not having any educational prerequisites, Clark told me that his CPA qualification, at least, was valid – “I applied and I said, can I sit the test? And I just sat the test. I didn’t even give them anything. [Clark has previously admitted under oath that he does not hold a CPA qualification.]
“I just wanted so hard to be successful and I did whatever it took, 16 hours a day, seven days a week. And I learnt and I learnt and I learnt, and I learnt everything. And I just surrounded myself with people that really knew their shit.”
He was just a soldier, he says. Just an ordinary soldier – nothing special – who wanted more for himself. He even agrees to provide his Army service number for fact-checking (before changing the subject).
It’s a rousing speech, and human instinct is to empathise with someone who wants to better themselves – to cheer for the underdog. Rags to riches; Nick Clark against the world.
When I ask him if he feels lighter, or some sense of catharsis having shed decades of deception, the intensity returns. “You.” He eyeballs me, jabs his finger down the lens of his phone, at a journalist in a Melbourne office who had spent an eternity staring at a screen, unpicking his web. “You. You are my catharsis.
“I’ve gone through so much pain – through my own fault, I just want to get on with my life. I mean, I’m just Nick fucking Clark that embellished my cycling results. Everybody has made me suffer enough. I’ve lost everything. I’m trying to rebuild my life. You are my catharsis.”
Nick Clark is a changed man, he says. He’s moved on from the deception that saw him create a community, sweep hundreds of cyclists into a trance, and blow the bubble up until it burst.
Throughout his many careers, Clark tells me, “I created hundreds of jobs, made people hundreds of thousands of dollars – I made people so much money – and created opportunities in cycling that this community doesn’t get anywhere else.”
He says that others always benefited more than he did. This is his burden, he says. He is the one who’s suffered the most: “me, not them. I know people have been hurt … because they believed in something and I took that away from them. I get it. But I lost everything.”
[After this interview, Clark was initially friendly for a couple of months, and agreed to a second interview. By mid-September, Clark declined to comment further, and sent a series of lengthy follow-up emails threatening legal action, claiming in one that any statements he had provided were “not accurate” and given “under emotional duress”.
“My only admission is my over inflation (not deception as you call it) of my road cycling results … I absolutely make no comment on any other issue you raise,” he wrote.]
Is Nick Clark reformed? Was the pro road cyclist his last role? Listening to him, I want to believe it. That he’ll move on from a string of deceptions that I’ve traced back to the early 1990s and which extended until 2020: a timeline that has seen him fabricate half a dozen university degrees, likely misrepresent his military service, invent a professional sports career, and exploit the trust of multiple communities.
I want to believe that there’ll be no more performances. I think, in the moment, that he does too.
As our call ends, he reaches a hand up to brush tears out of his eyes. For the briefest moment I catch a glimpse of a fresh tattoo running down the back of his left forearm. It’s new since the former soldier with the mysterious service record left the bike shop and found another life as a weapons instructor.
“Who Dares Wins”, it reads.
I hang up, and I think about what a satisfying metaphor that is for the whole story. How Clark’s audacity led to numerous careers, a CEO job with a million-dollar wage, and a pro cycling deception so elaborate that it fooled almost everyone. Before he lost it all, Nick Clark dared, and Nick Clark won.
But there’s something about the new tattoo that niggles as I turn it over in my mind. I’ve seen the phrase before. While rewatching an Instagram video of Clark at his latest gig, I remember where.
Running the length of his arm – the leading surface when you’re holding an assault rifle and advancing towards a target – is the famous, near-sacred motto of the elite Australian SAS regiment: a military unit Clark almost certainly never served in.
Editor: Matt de Neef
Thank you to those that shared their story.
If you have feedback or more to add to the story, email email@example.com.
Stories like this are made possible through the support of VeloClub members. To become a member, go here.