A super-fit amateur cyclist pedaled his way up the toughest stage of the Tour de France – and he did it all without a seat on his bicycle.
Rob Holden managed to climb roughly 13 miles (21.5 kilometers) up Mont Ventoux – the notorious stage in the world’s most famous cycling race – in an impressive two hours, despite not being able to sit down the entire way.
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The 52-year-old Englishman from Teddington, Surrey, is no stranger to the mountain, having cycled the same stage in 2013 on a heavy Boris Bike, but he says that this was his hardest challenge.
“There’s debate in the cycling community as to whether it’s better to sit or to stand when cycling uphill,” said Holden. “I had the conversation with my friends and we couldn’t settle on an answer, so we decided to test it out.”
Unlike his previous challenges, Holden used a carbon-fiber road bike instead of a heavy hire cycle in order to get up the French mountain.
“It was really strange at first, cycling without a seat,” says Holden. “Thankfully the crossbar was flush where the seat goes, otherwise I might have had a nasty surprise had I sat down accidentally.”
It took just two hours for the exploring geologist to get from the bottom of the mountain in the Provence village of Bedoin to the top, saying: “I took the same path up from when I was riding the Boris Bike.
“It wasn’t a race and I didn’t have a specific completion time in mind – I just wanted to do an endurance challenge,” he added. “It’s the longest and most iconic climb on Le Tour.
“For a few years there has been debate about whether you should stand or sit when climbing. Chris Froome sits when he climbs whereas Alberto Contador stands. Some say you should sit but I wanted to test the limits of my own endurance uphill.”
Holden reckons he might be the first person to have ever attempted the massive feat without a seat.
“I might be the first to have tried it – I couldn’t find anything online about other people taking on the same challenge.
Holden completed the challenge with pals Matt Winstone and filmmaker Ian Laurie. Winstone, who was apparently the logistics expert behind the initiative, said: “We had plans to present him with a seat when he got to the top, but we forgot.
“The original plan was for Rob to cycle down again, because freewheeling all the way down is the fun bit, but he was so tired that he didn’t want to.
“We wanted to present him with a saddle in a presentation box, but we couldn’t find one so didn’t bother in the end.”
Holden and his mates took on the challenge back in October in order to raise money for several prostate cancer charities.
“It was a lovely day at the bottom – around 25 degrees (Celsius),” says the cyclist. “But at the top it was only about seven degrees. It was really cold and I was absolutely drained. It was definitely the toughest challenge I’ve ever done.
“I’m not sure how I’m going to top it – but, then again, I’m not sure whether I want to,” he added.
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