AG2R rider Guillaume Bonnafond has plenty of experience riding in the high mountains. He has finished the Giro d’Italia three times and the Vuelta a Espana twice. However, his climb of the Col du Galibier last month may have been the most difficult climb he has faced.
COPD is a type of obstructive lung disease characterized by chronically poor airflow and to illustrate the effects of this disease, Bonnafond was challenged to undergo a simulation of COPD, while cycling up the Galibier, by wearing a facemask.
Worldwide, COPD affects 329 million people or nearly 5% of the population and in 2013, it resulted in 2.9 million deaths. The mask worn by Bonnafond restricted his breathing by up to 50% to replicate what it feels like for people suffering from COPD.
“What we want to do in this experiment is to use a mask to obstruct his breathing capacity by 50 per cent to replicate what it feels like for people who suffer from COPD,” explained Dr Jean-Jacques Roux.
“With the mask, I felt really bad at the beginning as I was breathing through a straw. I quickly ran out of breath, as if my metabolism was totally blocked,” he explained. “I felt as if I were about to faint.”
Bonnafond’s support team eventually got him to stop on the climb as he was struggling so much. “My head was spinning and it was as if I had a metal bar in my head,” he said afterwards.