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‘We’re experiencing a big problem’: Guillaume Martin fears for sport’s future in face of climate change

Frenchman believes Tour de France may need to be moved from July as pro cycling continues to negatively influence global warming.

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Guillaume Martin issued a stark warning regarding the future of pro cycling.

“We are experiencing a big, very big, problem,” Martin cautioned this week.

Cofidis’ climber-come-philosopher spoke to the Reporterre environment action website about the sustainability of an increasingly global sport in the wake of climate change.

“We are experiencing a big, very big, problem. I particularly remember the Vuelta a España last year. For several days, we went through incredible heat, particularly in the south of Spain. I remember a stage where, for five hours, my thermometer did not drop below 33 degrees C. On average we were around 39 degrees as we climbed in altitude,” Martin said.

“I wondered what I was doing there, making extreme efforts in extreme temperatures.”

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Martin’s words of warning to Reporterre come at the close of a season that saw riders racing through extreme temperatures all summer.

A heatwave in the middle of the Tour de France forced organizers to employ trucks to spray water onto melting tarmac, and left riders shading under parasols and wearing ice-vests pre-stage.

Some of the WorldTour’s biggest races, including the Tour de France and Vuelta a España, sit at the zenith of the European summer. Vuelta stages through the deep south of Spain have become notorious for parched landscapes and temperatures in excess of 40 degrees C.

“Lately, we realize that in our disordered world, it will be more and more difficult to play sports,” Martin said this week.

“Very concretely, in the world of cycling, this raises the question of the organization of races at certain times of the year. I am not sure that the Tour de France can continue to be held in July. The health of riders and spectators depends on it.”

Riders were regularly seen wearing cooling ice vests before stages at the Tour this summer.

Martin has published two books, with the latter – “La Société du Peloton” – touching on ecological issues.

The 29-year-old spoke in the wake of the UCI’s recent confirmation it had secured 80 founding signatories to its new climate action charter.

The governing body is looking to hold teams, race organizers, and national federations accountable for reducing emissions and being proactive in helping slow climate change.

Grand tour chiefs have already made initial steps to cut back climate impacts through many initiatives including green “litter zones” and electric vehicles. However, marathon-length transfers and huge race convoys remain the norm.

Riders are likewise becoming increasingly vigilant to offset the carbon emissions they generate by modifying their dietary, travel, and lifestyle choices.

Although stakeholders and riders are taking action to reduce the sport’s impact on the environment – and in turn the environment’s impact on the sport – Martin fears it may not be enough.

“It is undoubtedly necessary to amend the way in which we organize these major competitions,” he said. “Do we need so many cars in a cycle race, such a long advertising caravan at the front? We need entertainment, but we can probably entertain ourselves in a more reasonable way.”