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ESCONDIDO, California (VN) — Gavin Mannion came across the finish line in Escondido after a searing stage 1 of the Amgen Tour of California, salt outlines upon his kit, salt falling from his hair.
Riders trickled in for minutes, some unclipped, suffering from cramps. Jeff Louder (UnitedHealthcare) says he probably drank 30 bottles on the 100-degree, 165km stage around Escondido.
“The weather was the biggest factor today. It’s over 90 degrees, and this is the first time this year that most of us have raced in these conditions. It was just impossible to stay hydrated enough today,” Mannion said. “One of the hardest stages I’ve ever done. There’s salt everywhere; I think my hand was cramping coming into the finish.”
All day the temperatures around Escondido hovered around 100 degrees, and one team had to stop and buy more water at a gas station, having gone through its 150 bottles.
“It was like a blast furnace. It was nice on the climb up Palomar, but as we descended, you could just feel it getting hotter and hotter and hotter. It was like going into hell a bit,” Louder said.
“I think, particularly for everybody — most everybody — this is the first time they’ve felt this. A month ago I was in Belgium, where it didn’t go over 40 degrees. Now it’s 90. There’s a difference.”
The Southern California heat thinned a weary peloton, melting even the current road world champion, Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing), who eased off the gas late in the stage.
“I think it’s really, really tough,” said Bontrager director Axel Merckx. “You can see them finishing here. Everybody’s dehydrated, overheated. It’s 105 degrees. It’s the first stage; it’s a hard stage. When you see guys like Philippe Gilbert just give up with 10Ks to go because it’s too hot? It’s really tough.”
What’s even worse for the withered peloton is that Monday’s stage into Palm Springs is anticipated to be hotter still — and finishes on a climb. The predicted high in Palm Springs Monday? One hundred and nine degrees.
“It’s going to be brutal,” Merckx said. “Finishing uphill. It’s going to be really tough. But it is what it is. It’s the same for everybody. These young guys, they’re excited to be here, they’ll recover the best they can and make it a really good race.”
Alexander Candelario paused in the shaded finish, and dumped water over his head, letting it run down his face. Asked how hot it felt, he laughed.
“In the overall picture, I think it wasn’t that hot. But I think it’s the first hot day for everyone, so it was really hot,” he said. He lost track of how much water he’d drunk after 15 bottles.
“And I didn’t even take a pee once,” he said. “And tomorrow’s going to be even hotter.”