His face caked in sweat and salt-lines, Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) could barely get his hands on a drink quickly enough at the Vuelta a España finish in Cordoba as temperatures soared into the low forties for the last part of the stage.
The Katusha leader is one of the Vuelta’s veterans and very high temperatures are part and parcel of almost every year’s race, but even he said this tough weather was very hard to handle.
“It was terrible, this kind of extreme heat is really tough, when you get weather like this it’s all but impossible to turn the pedals, your legs get really tired by themselves,” he told Cyclingnews. “Frankly, I didn’t feel great.”
The climbs, Rodriguez said, “were the least of our problems. It was even hard to breathe in this sort of heat.”
As he pointed out, the forecast is not good - in the sense that the heat will continue at least until the weekend, and perhaps beyond.
“As far as I can see, we’ll be suffering like this throughout the whole of the first week and it won’t get any better until we get to Navarre and the north of Spain [on stage 11].” Nearly half the 2014 Vuelta, then, could be run off in very high temperatures.
Rodriguez has had an uneven start to the Vuelta. Katusha failed to turn in a great time trial but he then took a top three-place yesterday at Arcos de la Frontera, and he hopes to come into his own as the race progresses. As of stage four, he is 17th overall, 42 seconds back.
Some favourites, like Alejandro Valverde, are not prepared to wait so long, attacking on stage four’s downhill charge to Cordoba.
“I’m not going to say I didn’t expect it, because I knew he was going to try something, but I couldn’t chase him down, he was really strong,” Rodriguez said. As for the ascent to Cumbres Verdes on stage six - where temperatures are expected to continue to remain into the high thirties - “it’s a stage which I like, but I have to see what happens, because with this kind of heat, you’ve got limited room for manoeuvre. You’ve only got one shot.”