Chris Froome, team-mate and runner-up to Sir Bradley Wiggins in the 2012 Tour de France and emphatic champion in 2013, has shed light on how he copes with the pain of Grand Tour mountain stages in a reflective interview with the BBC.
Reminiscing about a harpoon-related accident that took place on Christmas Day in 2001, Froome told the BBC that the pain he felt then makes “temporary pain when climbing a mountain stage like Ventoux seem pretty insignificant.”
By the time of the accident, in 2001, Froome had been riding competitively in Kenya for three years. In his own words, had become “fixed on bikes”. So, to support his training, he went for a pre-Christmas-lunch run on the beach.
"As I ran I sort of stumbled, and suddenly I'm stuck in the beach.” Froome said. “It was a harpoon, half buried in the sand, and I'd trodden right on it. I sat there and tried to get the harpoon out, but it was wedged so deep. There was a barb on it too, so I couldn't just pull it out."
After managing to snap the shaft of the harpoon in half with the help of a passer-by, Froome made his way to a near-by clinic where the damage was assessed.
"The old chap there looked at it and told me there was no way we could pull it out, because it would do too much damage.” Froome said. “We'd have to cut it out, from the middle of my foot up to my toes. He just took a razor blade and cut open my foot. I sat there watching him do it.
"Not a nice way to spend Christmas. But we still had a good lunch. And it does make temporary pain when climbing a mountain stage like Ventoux seem pretty insignificant."
The harpoon incident at 16 hasn’t been Froome’s only encounter with hugely painful, career threatening issues.
Later in the interview, Froome, winner of an Olympic bronze medal behind Wiggins at London last year, talked about his struggle with the debilitating parasitic disease bilharzia which, among other things, can cause an allergic reaction to latex.
He has been battling with the condition, which gets worse in hot, humid conditions, like the ones that cyclists face in Grand Tours, since joining Team Sky
Froome referred to the medication that he takes to treat it as “pretty nasty pills which kill everything in your system, good and bad.”
But the Tour de France winner, who fought back to win his first ever competitive event after being knocked off his bike by his own mother’s car, has a determination that even his fiancée Michelle Cound is in awe of.
“He’s the most stubborn person I know.” Cound told the BBC after their interview with Froome was done. “He’s just so focused on what he wants, and he’ll do anything to get there.”