History was made Tuesday in Lyndoch at the Tour Down Under with the cool heads of race director Mike Turtur, UCI commissaries and CPA delegate Adam Hansen prevailing in the heat, deciding for the first time in the races history to shorten a stage of the Australian WorldTour event.
A sweltering day in the Barossa saw riders confronted with temperatures in the mid-40s and unsurprisingly, the conditions were clearly taking their toll before the official announcement of a 26.5km cut to the stage length, reducing the finishing circuits in Lyndoch from three to two.
The decision also sets a precedent for race organisers to enact the UCI Extreme Weather protocol in 2017, which is certain to feature conditions detrimental to rider's health and safety at some point.
"I like the heat, I don't mind it so much but I had to speak for the riders and a lot of riders were complaining it was a bit too hot," Hansen said of the hottest Tour Down Under stage he's ever ridden, which didn't stop him from launching a late attack in the stage.
"Because the circuit had three laps in the final we could make it one shorter. From the rider's side, we all wanted it. It wasn't me going around; it was more the riders coming up to me."
Hansen explained the riders expressing their concerns over the temperatures weren't just European with several Australians joining in the chorus. While Hansen was not naming names of riders he spoke with, BMC's Richie Porte was one Australian who made comment on the hot weather, adding he wasn't engaged in the decision-making process at any level but grateful for the outcome.
"For me, that was the hottest day I have had on a bike," Porte told reporters after cooling down by his team van. "Common sense prevailed there and the stage was a cut a bit short. I know it's not great for TV but I think it is nice for us riders that there is finally a bit of solidarity with the hot weather rules."
For both Australians, the hot summer weather is a consistent theme of racing Down Under and a factor that plays into their hands at the start of the season. While Astana's Laurens De Vreese has ridden the Tour Down Under since 2015, the hot weather was still a shock to the system as he went on a "suicide mission" one-man breakaway, eventually crossing the line in last place, 6:56 minutes down on stage winner Caleb Ewan (Orica-Scott).
"I think for everybody it was a good job. I looked once at my Garmin and it was 41.9 degrees so it was very hot. It was very good for the jury to say to do one lap less," an exhausted De Vreese said after collecting the KOM jersey and combativity award.
A largely exhausted peloton was keen to head back to the comforts of the air conditioned hotel post-race, with numerous riders backing the decision to shorten the stage via their social media accounts.
With a cloudy and low-20 degree weather forecast for Wednesday, the weather should have little effect on the racing. But come Thursday when it ramps back up to high-30s, Hansen, Turtur and the UCI commissaries could again be in discussions to shorten the race for the benefit of the riders health and well-being.
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