In an attempt to raise awareness for Chronic Pulmonary Lung Disorder (COPD), pro cyclist Guillaume Bonnafond decided to ride the iconic Col du Galibier with a face mask on, as a means of replicating the effects of the debilitating lung disorder.
In doing so, Bonnafond was able to demonstrate and experience for himself, the dreaded symptoms that effect more 20 million people worldwide.
By basic definitive, COPD encompasses a host of lung diseases, to include chronic bronchitis, emphysema and virtually any chronic obstructive airway disease.
COPD causes breathing difficulty, primarily due to the narrowing of the airways, commonly referred to as “airflow obstruction.”
Additionally, the symptoms of COPD increase when a person is active, attended by a persistent cough with phlegm, which often leads to frequent chest infections.
In the case of Bonnaford’s experiment, the AG2R La Mondiale rider, wanted to use a mask to obstruct his breathing capacity by 50 per cent, in order to experience what it feels like for someone who suffers from COPD.
So what was it like for the 28-year-old rider, who rode his way up one of cycling’s most fabled climbs with that mask on?
“With the mask I felt really bad at the beginning, as if I were breathing through a straw,” he said.
“I quickly ran out of breath. It was as if my metabolism were totally blocked.”
“During the climb, we realised that Guillaume was really suffering so that he lost direction and was starting to zigzag along the road,” said Dr Roux.
“His speed was decreasing rapidly to around 7 or 8 kph showing that the bronchial obstruction and hypoxia that COPD sufferers live with permanently are very debilitating for their physical performance.”
He added: “As a security measure, we asked him to stop.
Bonnafond said: “I felt as if I were about to faint. My head was spinning and it was as if I had a metal bar in my head.
“It’s as if you have something constantly pressing on your chest that’s suffocating you. It’s really unpleasant.”
After completing the Tour de France Category 1 climb, Bonnaford reflected: “It’s arriving at the summit saying, ‘I said I would do it and I did it’,” adding, “We suffocate 24 hours a day.”
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