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Cyclists Battle Europe’s Heat Wave

By: Catherine Tan

This summer, cyclists are presented with the impacts of climate change: fields barren from drought, melting glaciers, and raging wildfires. In past years, the Tour de France, one of the most prestigious Grand Tours, showed off the beautiful countryside, mountains, and cobblestone roads. This year it concluded on Sunday at a temperature of 93 degrees Fahrenheit, amid Europe’s highest heat wave.

This 21-stage bicycle race runs through a few European countries such as Denmark and Switzerland, but mainly highlights the French landscapes. The Tour was created in 1903 as a revenue source for two rival sports newspapers. Only 24 competitors completed 4 out of the 5 stages. Publications soared for the French sports newspaper, L’Auto, their distribution growing from 25,000 to 65,000 after covering the first Tour. Today, nearly 200 cyclists compete in the event, with worldwide news coverage.

However, this year has also featured a historic heat wave in Europe, with temperatures reaching 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Cyclists race over 2,000 miles for 3 weeks, testing their endurance and ability to battle through the heat. Tour officials even had to spray water to keep roads from melting because of the extreme heat. They also eased rules, allowing cyclists to rehydrate in the first miles of the race.

Despite these measures, the heat still caused a challenge. In the Alps, cyclist Alexis Vuillermoz vomited and collapsed, officials determining he had suffered from heatstroke. Bystanders recall seeing cyclists “white and green in their face” from the intense heat.

While the Tour de France has lengthy tradition, many citizens are more concerned with the heat wave. Villagers dripping with sweat crowded the air Tour de France support car and barely stayed minutes after the cyclists passed through. Instead, cheers came for the firefighters. Volunteers rushed to assist with pumping water. Over 36,000 people evacuated from the fires this summer, as cyclists pedaled by 70 miles away.


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