Tour de France puts in extra measures to protect peloton in sizzling heat

With temperatures still very high in Europe, the time cut has been extended and riders will be able to take bottles almost all day long.

Photo: Tim de Waele / Getty Images

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As a heatwave continues to engulf much of Europe, the Tour de France is taking additional measures to ease the burden on the peloton.

As part of a number of changes made by race organizer ASO for stage 15, riders will be able to pick up bottles from the first kilometer until 10k to go. The time cut calculation has also been set at 20 percent regardless of the average speed.

So that riders don’t have to store up bidons for fear of falling foul of littering rules, they will be allowed to pass off bottles to fans at any point on the course. Bottles will also be available from the race ambulance as well as neutral service vehicles.

Also read: Soaring temperatures turn up the heat on Tour de France peloton: ‘It was a furnace’

The decisions were taken after a meeting between representatives of ASO, the rider union the CPA, team union the AIGCP, and the head of the medical service.

Temperatures have been rising over the second week of the Tour de France and the mercury is set to hit close to 40 degrees C (104 degrees F) in Sunday’s 202.5k stage from Rodez to Carcassone.

Refueling is usually not permitted in the opening 30 kilometers of a stage and is also banned in the final 20 kilometers. In recent days, those limits have been cut with riders allowed to take bidons and other sustenance up to the final five kilometers of the summit finishes on stage 11 and 12.

The time cut is calculated as a percentage of the stage winner’s time, which is set differently each day depending on the day’s terrain and the speed of the race. Easier stages have a smaller cut as it’s expected that riders will be closer to the winner, while mountain stages are given bigger wiggle room for the gruppetto.

In addition, a stage with a fast average speed can be given a bigger percentage than a slower one. With only a few lower-ranked climbs, Sunday’s stage would have seen a shorter time cut compared to earlier in the week.

ASO’s decision means that regardless of the speed of the bunch throughout stage 15, the riders will have an additional fifth of the time of the winner to make it to the finish line.

Teams have been taking their own measures to ensure their riders don’t overheat with Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert reporting that the team had stocked up 300 bidons — many of which will likely be thrown over the riders — and 80 ice socks to keep the riders cool.

Specialized cooling gilets have also become a common accessory for riders while those stopped to speak with the media are being shaded by umbrellas.

The Tour de France also has a vehicle ahead of the race that is spraying a thin layer of water over the road to prevent the asphalt from melting.

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