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Fans and riders alike faced searing heat in stage...

Heatwave grips Tour de France start city

Dutch meteorologists warn that Saturday's weather will be especially hot for the first stage of the Tour de France

THE HAGUE (AFP) — The Dutch city of Utrecht, where the Tour de France starts on Saturday, is officially in the grip of a sweltering heatwave, Dutch meteorologists said, urging spectators to take proper precautions.

Temperatures, for a fifth day, soared past the 30-degree Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit) mark, “making the heatwave official,” Royal Dutch Meteorology Institute (KNMI) chief spokesman Cees Molenaars told AFP.

An official heatwave in the normally temperate Netherlands requires five consecutive days with a temperature of 25 degrees Celsius or above, with at least three of those days recording a temperature of over 30 degrees.

Molenaars said the KNMI was particularly concerned about the hundreds of thousands of Tour spectators expected to stream to the central city of Utrecht and urged people to take necessary precautions including drinking plenty of water.

Forecasters predicted a maximum temperature of 32 degrees Celsius (90 degrees Fahrenheit) in Utrecht on Saturday, which could be exacerbated by the large crowds and the lack of a breeze within Utrecht’s built-up city center.

There is a possibility of thundershowers later in the afternoon to bring some relief, Molenaars said.

Meanwhile, Dutch media reports said that many spectators were well-armed against the sun with cooler boxes and bags well-stocked with beer and water.

Some spectators even tweeted pictures of inflatable swimming pools next to the route for the Tour’s stage 1 individual time trial.