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How hot is too hot?

George Wallis-Ryder
11 Oct 2016

Just how hot must it be before a race gets altered? The UCI’s Extreme Weather Protocol leaves much to the imagination.

The UCI Road World Championships kicked off in Doha on Sunday, and already much discussion has centred on the temperatures riders have to endure. Despite scheduling the event three weeks later than last year's worlds in an effort to avoid the desert heat, the shortening of the Elite Men’s road race to 100km is becoming an increasingly possible scenario. With the UCI still yet to decide whether or not to act upon its Extreme Weather Protocol, we look at what exactly this entails.

On its own website, the UCI states: ‘The [extreme weather] protocol involves notably the compulsory convening of a meeting between the stakeholders (organisation including race doctor and chief of security, riders, teams, President of the Commissaires Panel,) when extreme weather conditions are anticipated prior to the start of a stage. This meeting can be convened at the request of any one of the named representatives.’

Unfortunately the wording of the protocol seems rather vague, and only gestures toward situations constituting ‘extreme weather,’ while outlining the options available to race organisers should any of these extreme situations occur, such as modifying the venue, start time, finish time or any combination of the above. At the most serious level, the UCI can cancel a race if it should deem fit to do so, but regarding what constitutes ‘extreme temperature’ there are no definitive answers given. How hot is too hot is apparently anyone’s guess.

Historically when the UCI has acted upon it’s extreme weather protocol, it has done so to tackle severe cold rather than heat. A botched attempt to neutralise stage 16 of the 2014 Giro arguably gifted Nairo Quintana the victory as a confused peloton struggled over the snowbound Stelvio pass. Most recently this year’s Tour De Suisse saw the final stage shortened to just 57.3km due to cold and snowy conditions. When the mercury rises however it seems that the UCI is still at odds as to what constitutes extreme conditions.

The above excerpt does state that action can be taken when extreme weather is ‘anticipated prior’ to an event, and it doesn’t seem unreasonable to suggest that extreme temperatures could have been anticipated when choosing to host races in the middle of a desert. Numerous riders in the women's TT event succumbing to the effects of the heat can’t have been comfortable for the wider racing community to view, and with the planned 257.3km men's elite finale only days away, the UCI will no doubt be watching its thermometers with baited breath.  

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