As Temperature Records Fall and Roads Melt, Cyclists Race On.
By: Zhihan Jiang
On July 24th, the Tour de France peloton races down Champs-Élysées towards the finish line after three weeks of biking remarkable distances in even more remarkable temperatures, reaching 93 degrees Fahrenheit - 20 degrees more than the European average.
The high temperatures of this year’s Tour de France have made competing dangerously extreme.
“Sometimes you could really feel it on the tarmac. At the start I said, yeah, it’s warm, it’s pretty okay,” French cyclist Romain Bardet, riding in his 10th Tour de France said to French television network Eurosport. “But when we reached downhill it was like, whoa! Crazy hot!”
Four days later, he fell behind in a critical stage, blaming the heat and calming that he was “roasted on his bike.” Alexis Vuillermoz had an even worse time. He was treated for on-site heatstroke after he started vomiting and collapsed in the Alps. When he was told by his team that he had a skin infection and a fever, he dropped out.
“They’re white and green in their face,” Evelyne Brunet, a spectator said, resting in a camping chair after hours of waiting in the intense heat, her arms covered with unabsorbed sunscreen. “And then — her arms covered with unabsorbed sunscreen. And then those eyes! When they take those long turns up the mountains, when they look at the water.”
The race, is normally a point of pride for the French, highlighting some of their most stunning landscapes. This time, it shows the effect of climate change, farmland parched by drought, melting glaciers, and a raging wildfire the cyclists barely missed.
Due to the high temperatures, organizers had to spray water on the tarmac roads to keep them from melting. Although this may stop the roads from melting, it raises humidity, which is another problem.
The body naturally cools itself by sweating, but when it is both hot and humid, it becomes a challenge. “You can manage this difference by adjusting the intake of minerals in the water,” said Bellenoue, the performance director.
Cyclists try to cool down before the beginning of each stage, wearing ice vests and spending time in the shade. While cycling, they wear helmets and jerseys with lots of openings to let the wind cool the down some, but they can only do so much.