Every one of the 164 riders still in the Giro d'Italia suffered in the heat on the road to Genoa as the summer weather intensified and promised to cook the riders day after day into the third week.
The riders faced temperatures close to 30°C all day as they crossed from Emilia Romagna into Liguria, with the Mediterranean coast offering little respite or cool breezes.
Many riders were covered in white salt marks on their jerseys and shorts after sweating out litres of fluids during the 204km ride from Parma to Genoa. While the joy of victory eased Stefano Oldani's pain, everyone looked fatigued beyond the finish line. They have raced for 12 stages but face a further nine race days, including a mountainous final week, before reaching the finish in Verona.
After finishing 14th, Edoardo Zardini of Drone Hopper-Androni Giocattoli had the thousand-yard stare of someone who had given his all in the breakaway but failed to land a result. Wilco Kelderman (Bora-Hansgrohe) pulled back more than eight minutes and rose to 13th overall but he was not convinced it was worth the effort, knowing he could pay for it in this weekend's hilly stage around Torino and then into the Alps to Cogne on Sunday.
Weather forecasts predict similarly hot days in the saddle until the Giro d'Italia climbs high into the central Italian Alps on stage 16 to Aprica next Tuesday. The heat will turn up the suffering for at least the next three stages with temperatures of 21°C even in Aprica at an altitude of 1173 metres. On the valley road to Cuneo on Friday, temperatures will be up to 30°C and stay there for Saturday's stage in the hills near Turin. The riders face a hot 90km on Sunday before finally climbing into the cooler air of the Alps for the finish in Cogne.
Although the peloton with all of the overall contenders finished 9:08 down on Oldani in Genova and raced at a steadier pace, they were all hot and tired after another 200km stage.
With the team buses close to the final kilometre point, at the bottom of the rising finish in central Genoa, riders quickly grabbed drinks from their soigneurs then turned around and rode off quickly to cool down, freshen up and begin their recovery for Friday's stage.
Richard Carapaz was escorted by teammates Ben Swift and Richie Porte, with the Ineos Grenadiers riders keen to get their leader to the team bus as soon as possible. Almost everyone quickly followed them, knowing that they also faced a 100km drive towards Sanremo to get to their hotel for the night.
Mathieu van der Poel and Oscar Riesebeek took a brief deviation into the podium area to congratulate Oldani but then also rode to their team bus. Only the different jersey wearers and those selected for anti-doping had to spend time at the podium area. They were mindful to quickly take on liquids and even solid food to begin their recovery.
Magnus Cort (EF Education-EasyPost) was in the breakaway that decided the stage but was distanced on the final Valico di Trensasco climb after an intense 175km of racing. He eased up and rode in 15:04 down on Oldani, even finishing behind the GC group, as he tried to recover from his effort under the Italian sun.
"It was hot…" the Dane said, explaining the impact of the heat on the race but the benefits of being in the break.
"It can definitely affect everyone, you have to drink so much more," he said.
"In the breakaway it's actually easier to control your feeding because you have easier access to the team car and to ice packs and water bottles to spray on yourself to keep cool."
Cort is known for reviewing his hotel rooms, with a keen eye for the best or worst facilities. The quality of the team hotels can also impact how well or how badly riders recover from the daily racing.
"For the last two nights we haven't had air conditioning in the room, so we've had some hot nights. Let's hope things get better if the weather stays this hot."
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