Saturday, July 01, 2023

Is it too hot for the Tour de France?

Broadcaster RTBF has published a detailed examination of how global heating is affecting the Tour de France. In Blowing Hot on the Big Loop RTBF uses vintage photographs, historical climate data and rider accounts to explore the effect of climate change on the world's greatest cycle race.

In last year's Tour de France the rider Alexis Vuillermoz collapsed from heat stroke at the end of the ninth stage. The rider was taken to hospital for treatment and later had to retire from the race. His compatriot Romain Bardet later said that the sweltering heat in the 2022 Tour de France was like nothing he had ever experienced before.

Using vintage images of the Tour de France placed side-by-side with more recent images of the same mountain stage locations RTBF provides some compelling visual evidence of the changed conditions now facing the riders in the Big Loop. In all the vintage photos shown by RTBF snow is clearly visible by the roadside. Snow which is largely absent from the corresponding modern images. 

Of course RTBF could well have cherry picked which images to show, choosing only vintage pictures showing snow and modern photos without snow. What is harder to argue against is the climate data itself. Using historical temperature records RTBF chart how the temperatures have significantly increased in recent years throughout France. For example the map above shows the change in average temperatures at the end of June across France since 1971.

RTBF concludes its examination by pointing out that climate change predictions suggest that the conditions in the Tour de France are only going to become more extreme in the coming years. This obviously poses the question of whether it is becoming too hot to continue holding such an extreme endurance event as the Tour de France in the extreme heat of July.

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