Rob Hunter talks about his challenge cycling a mountainous stage of the Tour.
Not that any of you would know, as I've only been talking about it every day for the last six months – but I've just cycled stage 18 of this year's Tour de France. Apart from getting married and having kids, it was definitely up there in the top ten best things I've done in my life. It was also easily the most painful!
This year’s Etape was an extremely challenging mountainous stage. Around 15,000 cyclists from 72 nationalities left from Briancon for a 181km ride that included the formidable climbs of Col de Vars and Col d’Izoard. With 2km still to go on the first mountain, I completely cramped in both quads and hamstrings – worrying as I still had a way to go and an even bigger mountain to tackle!
Having pedalled my way through the pain, I then had the daunting task of 30km still to ride including one of the hardest mountains in the whole of the Tour – a 14km climb with an average gradient of 7.3% which takes you up to 2,360m! Coming back down was equally as challenging. On some of the downhill sections, I was averaging around 75kph, navigating hairpin turns with massive drops just the other side along with hundreds of other riders doing the same – a scary prospect in a peloton.
Although I didn’t come anywhere close to the winner’s staggering time of 5hrs, I was just pleased to have completed it without the need for medical intervention – coming in at just over 9 ½ hours. It was an absolutely incredible atmosphere and the scenery was absolutely stunning. Despite the commitment – it requires hundreds of hours of training – and the pain I put my entire body through, it was an amazing experience and one that I am already looking forward to taking part in next year.