Temperatures were in the 50s at the start of the Abu Dhabi Tour and riders described the conditions as "impossible" to race in

The first edition of the Abu Dhabi Tour began under a blanket of heat today that zapped the power of those professional stars who came to race.

Italian Andrea Guardini won the first stage, which the organiser had to shorten because of the slow pace through the oven-like temperatures ranging from 40 to 45°C.

“This was the hottest day of my career, and for most of the others riders,” Guardini said.

“We started the day in the desert at 53°C. I’d only ever seen 50° before when I was training in Adelaide, Australia. I thought about it, but I knew that the others were suffering too.”

The pace averaged a relatively slow 34.9 kilometres an hour in the first two hours. Many of the 103 riders who lined up for the first edition of the Abu Dhabi Tour felt they could not push harder.

“It was impossible, it went too far,” Tom Boonen (Etixx-Quick Step) said.

“It’s just impossible to race. On the first small climbs, my heart rate was 170 to 180, so was everybody else’s, and without really pushing.

“You can ride in these conditions but you can’t race. The guys in the front just fell back one by one.”

Boonen raced in the Tour of Oman this year, where he pushed the organiser to cancel a stage because of extreme heat.

Organiser RCS Sport’s cycling director, Mauro Vegni knew that Boonen and others were pushing through a wall of heat to reach the finish in Madinat Zayed and made a call mid-race to cut the final circuit.

Vegni shortened the race by 14.5 kilometres, to 159.9, because the riders were suffering and the race was going to finish outside the live television window provided.

“We never asked them to go faster out there,” Vegni explained.

“The conditions worsened over the last week, it is unusually high for this time of year. We asked the riders to think about their health. We analysed it, with the heat, the setting sun and TV, and we re-evaluated.”

Vegni said that he might have to make a similar call for the next stages with forecasts showing continued high temperatures.

The Abu Dhabi Tour continues with a flat stage tomorrow near the petroleum rich city, but on Saturday, it climbs 11 kilometres to the Jebel Hafeet summit finish.

“Who can go full-gas on Friday on the mountain?” Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) said after a shower.

“It’s not possible in these temperatures.”

The organiser and cyclists walk a delicate line because at stake is the success of a new race in the Middle East. With sponsorship money for races drying up in cycling’s heartland of Europe, RCS Sport is banking on new partners overseas.

“This is an opportunity for cycling, money, new sponsors, the UCI gala on Sunday,” Vegni said.

“If some of the boys understood, which I think they did, then that’s good. We have to work together.”

  • J1

    Haha, don’t they have to have their husbands with them at all times….that’d be awkward.

  • Adam Beevers

    How about the team busses driving in front of the peleton constantly spraying them with large amount of cooled water?

  • RG

    Heat is only one factor. Desert conditions in the U.A.E also introduces a more than appreciable amount of particulate pollution, several times higher than established WHO limits for human exposure. This is notwithstanding other chemical species of pollutants lurking around at the high temperatures. With their higher inhalation rates, one wonders how much crap a cyclist can breathe cycling in these conditions.

  • chiefkurtz

    No concurrent women’s tour? That’s strange.

  • skelto99

    Echoes of the FIFA World Cup in Qatar

  • phill

    Who even cares about boring races in the middle east anyway?

  • J1

    One thing people are missing is the fact that it shouldn’t be as hot as it is, it’s 15-20 degrees hotter than is typical for this time of year in Abu Dhabi.

    I’m not sure riders like riding in the middle east regardless of conditions to be honest.

  • J1

    It gets up to high 30s in the TdF and the Vuelta but as you say above that must be pretty damn uncomfortable.

  • J1

    Their Grand Prix is one of the most boring too.

  • ian franklin

    We ride here in Thailand (and Race) in temps that sometimes nudge 40. I can’t imagine 10 degrees hotter than that!

  • Nigel Rue

    I couldn’t agree more.

  • Steven Nicholson

    it looks like the Abu Dhabi tour will fill the void left by the tour of Beijing as the end of season race no one wants to ride. surely its common sense to move the race to the start of the year when the other Middle Eastern races take place (and i assume it’s abit cooler)

    its also worth noting that the World Championship’s next year will take place in almost identical conditions (if not even hotter) i can’t even start to imagine what it’ll be like to ride a 250km+ race in temperatures in the late 40’s/early 50’s, anyone who actually finishes the race might have a very good chance of winning a medal because i don’t see many riders finishing the race.

  • Dabber

    Money = corruption and bad practice. It’s always the same. Ridiculous to hold this race there with those temperatures. UCI… rubbish as always.

  • Colbw

    The last comments by Mauro Vegni are an absolute disgrace, he is basically saying forget about the health and safety of the riders, we need cash and sponsors so they need to suffer. What happens if a rider dangerously overheats or dehydrates and suffers serious medical complications or god forbid worse, something tells me sponsors won’t want their names associated with a sport that shows no concern to their racers then.

  • mattsnow81 .

    Why go race there then? Money of course. It is not a place suitable for road cycling.

  • elan

    Yet other sports change the time of their sports events.But cycling has to endure these conditions.Not right.And some other sporting events do not last 5-6 hours.The U.C.I. should do more to control the races and assist the riders rather than go on about Armstrong all the time.Its bad enough walking about in such conditions let alone racing.

  • reece46

    It’s got nothing to do with opening up new markets, only the opening of a big wallet. No better than F1 and Fifa.

  • Bertol

    So what’s with the Extreme Weather Protocol?

  • eminusx

    its fine wanting new places to race, new markets to break into, but if the riders are unable to race due to the conditions then you don’t have a race to begin with, it may aswell be elsewhere.

    Im not convinced a vast empty desert is conducive to good tv either, nothing to comment on, nothing to see but sand for most of the race, and nobody willing to race in the heat.