“I don’t know why we pay them when they don’t protect us” says green jersey
Stage 16 of the Tour de France was raced in searing heat in the southern city of Nimes, and Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) called for action from the CPA (Cyclistes Professionnels Associé), the riders’ association, with the European heatwave set to continue this week.
Temperatures topped 40 degrees Celsius on Nimes on Tuesday July 23, complicating the flat 177km stage. Riders shoved ice in their helmets and jerseys as the peloton battled to regulate their body temperatures.
Sagan finished fourth in the bunch sprint finish and spoke in the mixed zone with the green jersey on his shoulders.
“I had one full bottle, and another, and another, and another. It was crazy,” he said.
Sagan went on to suggest he and his fellow riders cannot continue to compete in such stifling conditions, and he even appeared to criticise the CPA.
He pointed out that the flat nature of the parcours allowed for higher speeds and more of a breeze, but warned that it wouldn’t be sustainable when climbing mountains in the Alps from Thursday. Wednesday’s hilly stage is 200km from Pont Du Gard to Gap, and temps are expected to reach highs of 39c.
Temperatures in the Alps are set to be slightly lower than Nimes but still well into the 30s as the heatwave continues until the end of the week.
“It was OK because it was a flat stage, but if we are going to the mountains with this weather, it’s going to be very bad,” Sagan said.
“I think CPA should do something. I don’t know why we pay them when they don’t protect us.”
“Today we were sprinting but if you go into the mountains with this weather it’s going to be very bad.”
In addition, cyclists are forced to wear a polystyrene hat that overheats your head versus wearing cotton caps that protect you from the sun whilst not frying your brain.
It is a truism that the pros today have better than ever access to get fluids not just from team cars but neutral service vehicles; they can get ice packs for their necks, the ability to fuel up has never been easier and more controlled to ensure salts are being replaced. Just because riding large distances in 40 degree temps was seen as being “manly” in the old days doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be looked at as OK these days. Burning to death in cars used to be part and parcel of motorsport because nobody stood up to those in charge.
Sagan was unable to win the sprint in Nimes but placed fourth to make the green jersey even more secure on his shoulders. He tried to latch onto the lead-out train of Elia Viviani (Deceuninck-QuickStep) but was unable to match the pace of the pure sprinters as Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) won ahead of Viviani and Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma).
“Daniel [Oss] and [Marcus] Burghardt kept me out of trouble, and I was in the best position, behind Elia,” Sagan explained.
The Slovak now lies with 12 wins, equal to Miguel Indurain as well as legendary sprinters Robbie McEwen and Erik Zabel. The Bora-Hansgrohe leader also moved past Sean Kelly into sixth place on the Tour’s all-time top-three-finishes list with 44 in total.
“I was waiting for him to start because it was a headwind. I started too late because Caleb and Dylan came past me pretty fast. I just stayed on the wheel of Elia, and I was a little bit between them and it was hard to pass them.”