Have you ever experience heat like this, came the question to Romain Bardet. "Not in the Tour, no," was his reply, the Frenchman draped in an ice cooling vest and drinking yet more cold fluids to rehydrate himself after one of the hottest Tour de France stages in history on Sunday.
A day before the second and final rest day, the peloton crossed the Massif Central from Rodez to Carcassonne, with the racing played out under yet another intense heatwave in what has been a scorching hot summer in mainland Europe with the mercury hitting 40º at one point.
The 15th stage was won by Jasper Philipsen, the sprinters finally getting a chance at glory after 11 successive stages without an opportunity. The winner's Alpecin-Deceuninck teammate Alexander Kreiger was hiding in the shade after the stage, and remarked that racing under such conditions "for sure is not healthy."
But the German added: "In the end it's also cycling, and everybody here decided for themselves to do an outside sport. Sometimes it sucks and you go out in the rain and the snow, and sometimes you go out in the heat. I prefer the heat but it's definitely super-demanding.
"We did the best we could with cooling strategies. You have to stay hydrated and temperature management has to be good all the way. If you overdo your engine once and you don't cool it [straight away], you probably won't recover for quite a long time so it's crucial.
"It's obviously a question if you can handle it well or not. I was pretty much on the limit all of the stage in these temperatures."
Michael Matthews, the winner 24 hours earlier, quipped that being from Australian makes him "pretty immune to heat, but I've also lived in Europe for at least 10 or 11 years. I was really good in the heat
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