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'Other sports would be cancelled' – Tour de France riders react to stage 15 heat

Tadej Pogacar pours a San Pellegrino on stage winner Jasper Philipsen
Tadej Pogacar pours a San Pellegrino on stage winner Jasper Philipsen (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Two weeks into the Tour de France, the peloton faced what was the hottest day on the bike so far, racing 202.5km into 40°C heat on the road to Carcassonne.

It was a stage that saw QuickStep-AlphaVinyl rider Michael Mørkøv hurt more than anyone else, dropping off the back early on after suffering in the heat, and then battling on alone to the line outside the time cut.

The UCI put its extreme weather protocol into action, with feeding allowed anywhere on the stage up until 10km from the finish as the time cut was also extended to 20%. Race organisers ASO also sprayed water on a select portion of roads ahead of the peloton to cool down the tarmac and prevent melting.

Countless riders were taking the team presentation and doing the media rounds wearing ice vests or had already stuffed ice bags down the back of their jerseys, while riders also sought shade in the town before taking the start in Rodez.

While extra measures were put in place, there had never been any discussion of actions that might have made more of a material difference for the riders – such as an earlier start or a shortened day in the saddle.

After the finish following a hard day out, Cyclingnews spoke to several riders to gauge their reaction to racing through the heatwave.

"It's not up to me to decide," AG2R Citroën's stage 9 winner Bob Jungels said. "We still had a good day because it was flat, but if you have this on a mountain day, obviously in the mountains it's a bit colder.

"But I would say other sports would be cancelled if it's that warm, but I think mostly in cycling we learn if something bad happens, which is very unfortunate.

"Obviously there's a lot of things going on at the Tour that we have no idea about," Jungels added. "We could start a little earlier in the morning, also, which probably is not in prime time. But it's like I said, it's not up to us. We have our opinion, but in the end, we're just the players in the game."

Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert sprinter Alexander Kristoff shared similar views on the heat and the stage, even if his answers to the questions posed by Cyclingnews were more succinct.

"For me, it was too hot. I was really cooked and had nothing left," Kristoff said. "OK, we managed to do a bike race, but it was not pleasant."

When asked what measures could be taken in such conditions, Kristoff gave a simple answer.

"They can shorten the race," he said.

Stage 15 winner Jasper Philipsen also suffered in the heat but said in the post-race press conference that the stage was "doable" thanks to help from his team, even if the stage was run in "crazy circumstances".

He, like the rest of the peloton, was treated to copious amounts of cold drinks and ice during the four-and-a-half-hour day in the south of France.

"It would probably be in the top five hottest days," Philipsen said. "I think today, the team kept us cool, water and ice continually flowing all day to keep ourselves as cool as possible.

"It's crazy circumstances to ride a bike in, but it's doable with the water and ice."

For others, such as Team DSM rider Chris Hamilton, the conditions were just par for the course for racing in the summer.

Ahead of the stage, the Australian had been the only rider on his team to take the pre-race media interviews and team presentation without an ice vest, though the effort of riding in hot weather showed afterwards, his kit stained with salt from sweat.

"I'm doing OK," he told Cyclingnews after the stage. "I don't mind the heat, I guess. I sort of grew up in it, and it reminds me a bit of home.

"But when you have a day like this on stage 15 or something like that, there's a lot of tired guys out there and you just find yourself suffering at points that normally wouldn't be too bad and also the bunch is just splitting so easily.

"I was a bit surprised when everyone was like 'Oh the Tour will race in these conditions'," he added. "I mean, it's hot, but it's also midsummer so what do you expect?

"You've still got to go out in it, so I guess it's the same for everyone. We've all got to do it."

After finishing the stage, riders were again seen donning the ice vests as some at Ineos Grenadiers took to the ice bath outside the team bus. Following his warm-down, Ineos rider Tom Pidcock commented that he'd like to jump into a nearby fountain afterwards. The 22-year-old would later be spotted taking a dip before the team bus departed for their rest day hotel.

 

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