The heat in Qatar has been a constant theme in the build up to the UCI Road World Championships and while the eight-day event has been pushed back to October in an attempt to ensure cooler conditions for the riders, several riders expressed their displeasure with the conditions during the women's team time trial on day one.
For the road race events, the UCI previously announced that a four-man group of experts - Dr. Anton Zasada, Dr. Olaf Schumacher, Dr. Sébastien Racinais and Dr. Juan Manuel Alonso – will convene before the events and provide daily assessments of the weather forecast. An UCI booklet called 'beat the heat' has also been produced, detailing the effects of heat when racing and how to combat dehydration. The booklet also states the time trial events "are likely to be the most affected by heat stress".
Despite the booklet and group of experts on hand, the TTT event went ahead with riders from several teams feeling the heat and requiring medical attention as a result. Rabo Liv's Anouska Koster was one those riders most affected by the near 38 degree humid heat during the 40km TTT with the Dutchwoman crashing into a barrier, falling over her bars and injuring her face and shoulder. Koster was able to remount and finish the race which ensured the team could record a result having already see two riders drop out.
After the race, the Rabo Liv team announced on social media that while Koster was heavily bruised, she suffered no fractures in the crash. Koster also provided an update on condition as tweeted, "A day full of all kind of emotions... When you together gave it all and work so hard for it with the whole staff and riders, then it feels like a nightmare in the way it ended," she wrote. "But my team made me smile again. Really happy with you all and proud of my teammates who were all so strong in the #TTT #stronggirls #suffering #raboliv."
While Koster didn't mention the weather, Roxane Knetemann told Dutch media outlet NOS post-race the conditions were unacceptable.
"The UCI has not really thought this through. It makes no sense!," Knetemann said. "The heat, it's just not to do and certainly not in a time trial. It's like a sauna."
Olympic gold medallist Anna van der Breggen was also critical of the race being held in the hot weather and added to the comments of her trade teammate, explaining, "This is a combination of fatigue and the heat. When you see how Anouska looks like, then we should be glad that she came across the finish line," she said. "I've never ridden in such heat. A very dry heat. You go to the limit and what happens with your body, you do not know."
The Rabo Liv team eventually finished last of the eight teams, over six minutes down on winner Boels Dolmans. The Dutch duo of Ellen van Dijk and Chantal Blaak from Boels Dolmans were also critical of the conditions. However, for the Blaak the victory meant she was less focused on the heat in the aftermath as she explained to NOS.
"Even your lungs hurt," Blaak told NOS. "After twenty minutes we were already overheated. Anyway, we're safe over the line and we have the world title. That was our goal."
The UCI Road World Championships continues Monday with the junior women's time trial and U23 men's time trial events.