Snowy mountains of the Tour de France #TDF
11th July, 2017
With the Tour de France (#TDF) in its second week now, things are beginning to hot up in the overall General Classification but the temperature could be about to cool down! That’s because the Grand Tour is going to hit its first set of proper mountains in this year’s race with Thursday’s stage entering the Pyrenees.
#TdF is usually associated with baking temperatures and sweat-drenched riders pummelling along the French highways at 50kmh (30mph). But, we are likely to see snow, ice and falling temperatures as the riders ascend the very high mountains of the Pyrenees and Alps.
Pau to Peyragudes
Riders will have to complete 214km (128 miles) on Thursday’s stage, from Pau to Peyragudes, which contains an extremely difficult sequence of climbs. First there’s the climb up to the Col de Menté, then the Port de Balès and finally the real agony for the legs in the final climb to Peyragudes. In the final kilometre, on the runway of the only airport of the Pyrenees, will be a section of road with a 16% incline – to really finish them off.
Snow robs Dutchman of race
But it’s not just the altitude or steepness of the mountains that challenges the world’s elite riders. Snow and ice can play their part too – even at the height of summer. At last year’s Giro d’Italia, Dutch rider Steven Kruijswijk was leading the race comfortably with only a couple more stages to go when he overshot a bend on the descent of the Coll dell’Agnello and crashed into a 3m bank of snow and ice causing him to fall off his bike. His nearest competitors raced away from him down the mountain and he lost the leader’s jersey - the Magila Rosa - and eventually finished 4th overall. If he had won he would have been the first Dutchman to achieve this feat. Instead compatriot Tom Dumouiin won it this year.
Keeping out the cold with newspaper when going down hill
The most treacherous and challenging part of cycling in the mountains is the descent. As well as reaching speeds of up to 80kmh (50mph), the cold air at high speeds can chill the body temperatures of riders quite dramatically. To combat this, an old tried and tested method is employed to protect riders. At the top of the mountain, riders are handed newspapers. The zip down their jerseys and stuff the newspapers across their chests and zip up again. The newspaper provides a barrier against the cold air and keeps the riders warm. At the bottom of the decent they simply throw the papers to the side of the road and carry on riding.
Sophisticated weather forecasting
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