GAP, France (VN) — The Tour de France is heating up, and not just on the roads. After several sweltering days, seven-time grand tour champion Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) lashed out at race organizer ASO.
The temperatures on the road reached 100 to 115 degrees in the last week, but riders have the passing air to cool them down during the stage. However, off the bike it is a different story.
Contador held his rest-day press conference outside Tuesday to avoid the oven-like conditions inside the Best Western hotel in Gap. The mercury dipped at night, but not enough to have a proper rest during the world’s biggest bike race.
“I know that the Tour moves thousands of people and it’s hard to find room for everyone, but the hotel where we’re staying is not worthy of Tour de France,” Contador told 50 to 60 journalists in the parking lot next to the team’s mobile kitchen truck.
“And we are sleeping here for three nights. We have [104-degree] temperatures during the day while we are racing, then return to a room that’s [95 degrees].”
Contador won the Giro d’Italia in May to add to his list of grand tour victories, which includes two editions of the Tour de France. Team owner Oleg Tinkov sat beside his champion and explained the conditions are “impossible” for a hotel.
“When I got to the hotel at night, it was impossible to sleep. I had to take a shower for 20 minutes to cool off,” Tinkoff said.
“Cyclists are already punished by the heat during the stages. They should be treated better when it comes to hotels.”
Race leader Chris Froome (Sky) held his rest-day press conference outside as well. Inside the Ibis Hotel in nearby Sisteron, however, the air conditioning brought temperatures down to a comfortable level.
His Sky team wanted to bring motorhomes to the Tour so that its nine cyclists could avoid the problems that come with switching hotels almost daily. Richie Porte complained of ants in his room two days ago.
Sky believes that if a cyclist returns to the same controlled environment each night then he can perform better on the road.
However, after Sky used a motorhome in the Giro d’Italia for Porte, the UCI blocked the British super team from doing so in the Tour by creating a new rule that requires teams to use lodging provided by the race organizer.
At the Tour, ASO assigns teams hotels near the stage finishes. Some days they are chateaus, some days they are dated and cramped quarters.
Sky still uses three motorhomes to house team staff. With staff sleeping in the parking lot, its cyclists are able to spread out and have their own hotel rooms instead of sharing two per room as most other riders do.
Contador will be able to put the hotel problems behind him when he races the first of three big Alpine stages Wednesday to Pra Loup.
The temperature with the normal stress of racing the Tour, however, is an issue.
“When it’s this hot, we need to reflect,” Italian Filippo Pozzato (Lampre-Merida) told La Gazzetta dello Sport after stage 13 to Rodez.
“You can’t ride. It’s a discussion to have to protect our health.”
It is not the first time high temperatures have been an issue. This year at the Tour of Oman, the organizer had to call off the stage due to 100-degree temperatures that saw some riders’ tires explode.
In response to the heat and cold, the UCI created an extreme weather protocol. At this point, with five days to race, it appears unlikely organizer ASO could use it in the Tour.