Robert Hunter is entering his tenth year as a professional with Team Barloworld. The 30 year-old South African sprinted onto the scene in 1999 and has been going strong since – including his first Tour de France win last year. Gregor Brown of Cyclingnews spoke with the rider as he prepared for the new season with his team-mates in Bibbona, Italy.
"I did not really think of it, I thought I would do [race professional] ten years, and if I did that I could say I had a good bash at a professional career," Hunter reflected on his first win – a big one – in the 1999 Vuelta a España. We were sitting in the Hotel Marinetta lobby, but his mind was drifting all the way back to that day in Benidorm and then back to his current aspirations. "When I look at it now, I am keen to do another four years. However, I think it all depends on how you feel and the results you get."
He is in the right team to get those results; since joining Barloworld in 2007 he has stepped into the spotlight thanks to a win in La Grande Boucle. Under the wing of Claudio Corti, Hunter gave the Professional Continental team one of its two wins in the 2007 Tour de France and – likely – a free pass to return this year.
"Back in South Africa it is the one race that everyone looks up to and they think that 'that's cycling,'" he continued of his win in Montpellier, the first ever for his country. (Also read Robert Hunter: first stage win for Africa.)
"It was one of my goals to win a stage, and I would like to win more stages in the Tour. However, for me it is not the be all and end all of cycling. I can honestly say if I never had won a stage in the Tour, but another 60 or 70 races, I could still say 'I had a good career.'"
In fact that win in Benidorm still holds a special place in his heart. "It will always be a special win. It was my first professional win and it was also a stage win in one of the Grand Tours. There are not many guys who manage to get one of their first professional victories in that big of a race. However, I think that every victory is special, and they all give you something."
Read the entire Hunter interview.