Soaring temperatures at the Volta a Portugal have prompted questions around the organiser’s consideration for riders.
The twelve-day stage race kicked off on Wednesday and continues until Sunday August 12, with temperatures reaching a claimed 45°C on Thursday.
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Portuguese rider Joaquim Silva (Caja Rural–Seguros RGA) was forced to retire during the 203 kilometre stage, and so far the route has not been revised in response to conditions.
The stage from Beja to Portalegre follows an undulating route, with an uphill finish.
Silva’s team tweeted following the 26-year-olds abandonment: “[He] has been forced to leave as a result of a heat stroke due to high temperatures,” later citing dizziness as a result of dehydration.
In 2016, the UCI introduced its ‘extreme weather protocol’ which outlines an action plan to be carried out in the event of ‘extreme weather’, with ‘extreme temperatures’ included.
Under the protocol, a meeting should be held between stakeholders, to discuss modification of the start time, venue, change of course, neutralisation, cancellation – or of course the option of no action. Stakeholders can include a race doctor, chief of security, riders and teams.
The protocol applies to WorldTour and HC events – but as a UCI 2.1 ranked stage race, the Volta a Portugal is not included.
Earlier this year, organisers of the Tour Down Under reduced the length of stage three’s planned 146.6 kilometre route by 26 km, when temperatures exceeded 40°C .
Katusha-Alpecin’s Tiago Machado tweeted “follow the example of the Tour Down Under and in these extreme conditions, reduce the kilometres.”
Portugal has hit record temperatures as part of the ongoing heatwave across Europe – the country’s maximum reported temperature was 47°C on August 1, and experts say that the 50s are not out of reach.
Fire prone areas of Portugal have already begun preparing for flames – with 10,700 men and women including voluntary firefighters, police and soldiers made ready, according to the Journal.