Another long-serving member of the peloton who’s recently hung up his helmet is Brit Jeremy Hunt (Sky). Having turned pro back in 1996, without the benefit of support from institutions such as British Cycling, Jez, as he’s more popularly known, has enjoyed a fairly prolific career, racking up 43 victories (at least one most years) and was a key member of Mark Cavendish’s 2011 World Championship-winning GB squad. He was also national road race champion in 1997 and 2001.
After impressive results in his first year on the French amateur scene, Jez was signed to Miguel Indurain’s team Banesto. He recalls:
When I was a first-year pro, I remember getting to the Banesto training camp. They had never seen me before and I showed up and I was fat. But I didn’t think I was fat, I thought I was normal. The first time I met everyone I walked up to the table with all the riders and managers and I see Indurain sitting there. I thought, “This is the guy who I’ve just been watching on TV for the past five years.” It was amazing. When I rode for him in the Tour of Asturias, all we had to do is ride at the front for the first three days and they told me I could pull out on the first mountain day. I stayed with it and I’ll always remember Indurain saying, “muy buen Jeremy, muy buen”. How good was that! I was totally starstruck by him.
After that auspicious start, Jez rode for four seasons at Banesto but believing his calling lay in the Belgian cobbles and Classics, he spent the next two years with Big Mat Auber ’93 and recorded one of his best results in 2002: victory in Grand Prix Ouest France, Plouay. Conversely, his biggest win led to his worst contract the following year with MBK-Oktos.
Things didn’t get much better when he signed with Mr. Bookmaker. The team was subsequently taken over by its parent company Unibet, which was excluded from ASO’s races because of French betting and advertising regulations (you may recall the white jerseys with the big green question mark on them). Hunt then moved to Credit Agricole in what was to be their last season in the ProTour ranks before moving across to Cervelo Test Team, a four-year project that lasted just 18 months.
However, Cervelo gave Jez the opportunity to realise a boyhood dream when he finally rode the Tour de France in 2010 – both his first and last appearance at the Grand Tour. He’d turned down the opportunity to ride the Tour back in 1997 with Banesto, never realising that few further opportunities would come his way. He later mused:
I wish I had ridden the Tour that year. That was when there were all the big drug problems. I was winning a lot of races that season and I thought I’d sit it out and do it the next year. In hindsight I wish I had ridden it. I can’t say for sure but I might have won a stage or two (or close). There you go…that’s life. It took me 14 more years before I got the chance to ride my first Tour.
In 2011, Jez signed for Sky and was a key member of their Classics squad but, probably more importantly, took some of the younger riders under his wing and passed on words of wisdom gained from his lengthy career. He’s also provided inspiration to his younger half-brother Joshua Hunt who’s been racing on the French amateur scene.
So what next for Canadian-born Hunt? He’s going to settle down in Melbourne, Australia – where he’s spent the last few off-seasons – with his partner, enjoy fatherhood and maybe do a bit of talent-spotting. We wish him well and every success in his new life Down Under.