CORDOBA, Spain (VN) — Temperatures soared north of 100F late in Thursday’s 12th stage at the Vuelta a España, and the peloton was melting under blazing heat.
“I saw once it was 43C,” said Jumbo-Visma’s Koen Bouwman. “It was super-hot today.”
Hot is an under statement.
If the thermometer hit 43C — 109 degrees in Fahrenheit — that’s by far the highest temperatures so far in the 2021 Vuelta in a race already marked by extreme heat.
Heat and humidity have already been a major factor throughout the first half of the Vuelta, even if temperatures were a bit cooler than some were predicting when the race started in Burgos on August 14.
“The first week, we knew it was going to be dangerous with the wind, so there’s a lot of accumulated tension,” said José Joaquin Rojas (Movistar). “This week everyone is fighting for the breakaways, so it’s full-gas every day. And add the heat, and it’s been brutal.”
A Vuelta in the middle of August
When the 2021 season calendar was confirmed, everyone was struck by the early dates for the Vuelta on a year that two weeks of the race were being contested in the southern half of Spain.
After racing in October and into November in 2020, and staying largely in the northern and cooler half of Spain in 2019, the race has been in a cooker ever since it rolled out of Burgos nearly two weeks ago.
“Today was really hot again, and the speed was high as everyone was trying to get into the breakaway,” said Miguel Ángel López (Movistar). “The speed never came down, and neither did the temperatures.”
Warmer temperatures and higher humidity have piled on the peloton since the route hit the coast a week ago.
After hugging the Mediterranean coast all week, the thermometer shot even higher Thursday after the route dipped into the interior and ended in Córdoba, one of Spain’s hottest cities.
“The heat was a tough one today,” said stage-winner Magnus Cort (EF Education-Nippo). “Our team has a lot people on the road and that’s very important to have people with fresh bidons because it’s not always possible to come back to the car. My teammates were going back to the car for drinks and for bottles to pour on myself to keep the core temperature low on a day like today.”
The extreme heat can also put a chill on the racing, and the day-in and day-out of racing is adding up.
Kiel Reijnen (Trek-Segafredo) explained how the heat got the better of him on the Alto de Velefique summit in stage 9. The American got gapped, lost the gruppetto, and was in danger of missing the time cut on the especial summit finish high above the sweltering coast.
“The weather here is different here than a lot of other races we do. It’s super-hot. The only other race we do like this is the Tour Down Under,” Reijnen said. “You really have to be careful and be sure you stay hydrated. I’m usually pretty good in the heat, but sometimes, you just blow a gasket. I went over the limit, and if it’s too hot, you pay for it.”
Cooler temperatures offer reprieve in final week
Temperatures are expected to stay in the mid- to high 90Fs throughout the weekend across Extremadura and Castilla y León, but there’s a reprieve waiting in the final week.
The closing stages zig-zag across Asturias and Galicia along Spain’s “Green Coast,” renowned for cooler temperatures.
“It was hotter than I thought it was going to be today,” said race leader Odd Christian Eiking (Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert). “Of course, I prefer the cold, because I am almost from the North Pole. This is not my everyday temperature. I am used to it, now, because we are now almost two weeks with the hot temperatures. I hope the last week will be cooler in the north of Spain.”
Eiking will be happy. Forecasters are calling for temperatures in the mid-70Fs and a chance of rain throughout the final week.