Team Great Britain say that they have trained their riders, including men’s road race leader Mark Cavendish, specifically for the heat that they will face at the 2016 UCI Road World Championships this week in Doha, Qatar.
The mercury is reaching 38°C each day, but many are saying that the Persian Gulf air on the barren Qatari peninsula is different from any other race.
“We had them in a heat chambers, or a heated room, doing simple turbo sessions,” GB road coach Rod Ellingworth told Cycling Weekly.
“You can cut down the acclimatisation time by exposing yourself to those temperatures at light intensities.”
The Worlds kicked off with the team time trials on Sunday and continued with the individual ones on Monday. Photographs captured women collapsed on the ground from exhaustion and heat on Sunday.
Several voiced their concerns. Rabo-Liv’s Roxane Knetemann said: “The heat in Qatar is extreme. You’d expect organisers and the UCI to have some knowledge about cycling.”
The Middle East heat greeted Cavendish and the team warmly when they arrived yesterday evening. Some other members racing the time trial, like Steve Cummings, were already in Qatar. Great Britain will make its final nine-man team roster from the 10 there. The extra rider could help Ellingworth and the staff in cooling the team.
“In the TT, you can use the cooling vests beforehand, but that only lasts for so long, in the road race it won’t,” said Ellingworth. “It’s just about getting enough fluids in them and getting drinks to them at the right time.
“The lads race a lot in the hot weather, but this seems to be really like a piercing heat. It’s hard to sit in the car and know [how it feels], but the lads in the team time trial seemed to cope with it well, but it was hot and the intensity of the heat was there. There were comments after the team time trial, ‘I never sweated as much as this’. They were wet completely through.”
The UCI will be taking the comments on board in light of recent seasons that saw snow and heat affect races. A new extreme weather protocol came into existence this year and the UCI said ahead of the worlds, if needed, it could cut the race by 150 kilometres, to the final circuits or just 106.4 kilometres.
“They have the heat protocols, [the UCI] will have to look at it on the day. They race at the Tour Down Under in 40 degrees, so it’s a difficult one. They have allowed them to race here so it will be what it will be,” Ellingworth said.
“It’s not easy. The main thing is pacing your efforts. If a team wants to ride in control to soon or something, that is what will affect some guys in the end.”
Ellingworth speaks more about Cavendish and the team in this week’s issue of Cycling Weekly magazine out on Thursday.