cycles-of-torture_1I felt like I was flying — like a bird, diving and rolling, weightless and untethered. Everything looked so blue, so sharp. I felt incredibly alive. Into hairpin bends my body surged forward dangerously close to the edge, disregarding the terrifying 1,000-metre cliff drops. The mountains engulfed me. Drenched in sweat, I cycled higher and higher — up to the mountain pass known as the Aubisque. My head was pounding. My heart was pumping like a steam engine — my pulse almost 200 beats per minute. At the top, nearly 2km above the sea, I was amongst the clouds.

It was here, in the French Pyrenees, that I first saw the Tour de France, first heard the thunderous cheering and first witnessed the incredible strength and speed of the professional cyclists. In the flesh, the riders shocked me. They didn’t look human. I wondered how they could put their bodies through such pain.

Many years have passed but I still recall vividly the great Miguel Indurain. He looked like a machine as he roared past me chasing down a lone rider who threatened to take his lead — as he disappeared into the mist at the top of the mountain it looked as if the big Spaniard was racing into the heavens.

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