Being dropped with 100 kilometres to go in a mountain stage is never an enjoyable experience in the Tour de France, but lanterne rouge, Kenny Robert van Hummel, has remained upbeat despite suffering in the Pyrenees.
Van Hummel and his Skil-Shimano squad are participating in their maiden Tour de France and the boys in white, blue and red have justified their wild card invite with some fine attacking rides in the first week. Van Hummel has picked up several top 10 places in sprint finishes despite sitting last at 1:59:32 behind race leader Rinaldo Nocentini.
"The Pyrenees were something else. I'd never done three days of solid climbing like that in my life. It was a totally new experience and one I won't forget in a hurry. I was riding my own speed trying not to blow up but on the final stage in the mountains. I was riding on my own for 110 kilometres and I only made the time cut by three minutes on the final stage in the Pyrenees," van Hummel told Cyclingnews.
Asked how he felt to prop up the general classification, Van Hummel showed his passion for the race: "A lot of people give me attention and ask how hit feels, but I'm just happy that I'm still in the Tour, gaining experience. After the Tour there are some criteriums and small races in Holland and they always invite the lanterne rouge, so I'll be doing them and showing off to the home public. But back home they see that I'm fighting hard in the mountains and they like it. For a country like Holland, where there are few mountains, it's exciting and the buzz it's giving me is an enormous honour."
Stage 13 will see the race travel from Vittel to Colmar, with five categorised climbs that will test the lanterne rouge's mettle once again. "The Alps will be hard and I'll be suffering again, I'm sure, but my plan will be the same - follow my own pace and not worry too much about the peloton. Maybe I'm using up too much energy riding like that in the wind but going at my own pace is far better than just blowing up and being eliminated. You never know what the best option is but I think I'll make the right choice."
It hasn't all been struggle and strife for Van Hummel, with the Dutchman pitting his sprint skills against the best fast men in the world, with several top 10 placings already secured. "It's hectic in the finale and I don't have a really good team to help me. We have lots of guys who can attack but only one teammate can look after me properly in the finale so it's not easy. Normally I have two other guys but neither of them is here."
Van Hummel isn't alone when it comes to sprinting struggles. Columbia-HTC's vice-like grip on flat stages as meant only Thor Hushovd has picked up a win against the American outfit. "They are so strong and have so many guys that can string out the bunch. We don't have that but neither does a ride like Oscar Freire and he hasn't won either. When you don't have a lead out it's almost impossible to win a stage."