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Robbie Hunter

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The 2012 SA road race champion on taking risks, rude drivers and why Lance Armstrong was great for the sport.

CYCLING made headlines for all the wrong reasons last year, but for Robbie Hunter — the first South African to compete in the Tour de France and a five-time winner of Cyclist of the Year Award in SA — courage and determination a re the only drugs he needs.

Its never too early to toughen up.

It's never too early to toughen up. Going to the only English school, surrounded by seven Afrikaans schools, in a place like Witpoortjie on the West Rand was bad enough, but when it was also called Princess High, it could only lead to trouble on the way home…

Listen to your grandparents - They're not just old people.

Listen to your grandparents — they 're not just old people. My folks gave me good guidelines to try to live by but it was my grandfather who had a huge impact on the things I've achieved in my life. I want to teach my baby daughters, Mandy and Chloe, to have the same confidence in themselves to do anything they want in life and not be scared to take a risk. A lot of people are too scared to try new or different things — then years later, they look back with regret.

Rugby and Cricket aren't the only fun sports.

Rugby and cricket aren't the only fun sports. My first bike was given to me by my grandfather when I was 5, followed by my first real racing bike when I was 10. In those days, South Africa was strictly rugby, soccer and cricket. Today, 15 years since I turned professional, I see a massive change in the following in South Africa. Cycling is now one of the fastest-growing sports here with a huge amateurlevel following. I really think we'll see more and more young guys making the jump to Europe and professional cycling. I’d like to think that both myself and cyclist Greg Minaar were some kind of catalyst for this.

Cycling has a dark past but it’s got a very bright future.

Whatever way you look at it, Lance Armstrong was great for cycling. Now the truth about him and many of his competitors has come out — but that is the past generation. Today, there's so much good in the sport, which is doing huge amounts to make sure it stays clean.

Everyone deserves a second chance.

Should Lance be able to ride again? He’s too old to compete as before but I don't see why he can't ride again at a different level. Even murderers get out of jail.

I’ve always known what I can and can’t achieve.

Coming from a modest background, cycling gave me a way to change my life, giving me more than I ever imagined. There was no way I would have thrown that away by doing drugs.

You never know what can happen at a race.

There I was at the start of the Tour of Switzerland race when I saw this beautiful young Swiss woman. We started talking, she handed me her number and today we’re married and living in Switzerland.

The cold is for skiing, not cycling.

I come back to SA every year from mid- October until the end of December, to do my base training in warm weather. I love skiing in the mountains but not riding in the cold.

It's great to be a groundbreaker.

Riding in the Tour de France in 2001 was an incredible moment for me. I was doing something no South African had ever done and which most people felt was impossible to do. Even though I'd had some good results over the years, winning a stage in 2007 is something I'll remember forever and hopefully achieve again before I end my career.

Winning at home is really special.

I've probably won every race that's worth winning in South Africa but the one that meant the most to me was the SA Championship in 2012. I'd never managed to compete in this before, so to come here and win and be able to showcase the SA jersey and flag in Europe, and more importantly at the Tour de France, was great for me.

Cyclists need to feel safe on the road.

People in SA aren't tolerant enough when it comes to cyclists or the rules of the road. When people don't stick to speed limits, when they drive and overtake in emergency lanes, when they don't stop at red lights or overtake on white lines, there are going to be accidents. We need more traffic officers who are paid properly, so corruption isn't an option. Until then there will always be disrespect for the laws — and it's truly sad.

Cycling is not all about racing.

It's one of the best forms of fitness and it's a great way to meet new people and network for business. It becomes so addictive, I've rarely seen people quit once they start.

Time with your family is precious.

I'm away from home for two out of every three months so when I'm there I do whatever my daughters want.

Living in the now is important.

I know I'm coming to the end of my career. I'd like to race for another two years and then move on, in or out of sports. But for now I'm really motivated. I concentrate on what I'm good at and that's riding a bike, for now.

South Africa is always with me.

I support a charity called Change a Life in SA, which is managed year round by a company. I do my best to publicise the great work they do. They're fighting crime at grass roots level by changing peoples' lives and the paths they take.

Snow is great but...

There's nothing better than South African sunshine and a bunch of friends having a few beers around a braai.









Marion Scher

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