Soaring temperatures and high winds have forced Tour Down Under organisers to reduce the length of the first two stages of the race. A ‘Code Red’ alert was issued across South Australia as temperatures were expected to reach highs of 47 degrees over the next three days with the added expectation of high winds too.
This has seen organisers enact the UCI Extreme Weather Protocol, cutting the finishing circuit of Stage 1 while also cutting part of the second stage.
Stage 1, which takes place tomorrow (Tuesday morning, Australian time), will now only distance 129km instead of the planned 132.4km from North Adelaide to Port Adelaide. Stage 2 sees a more significant change with 26.9km being cut, which brings the stage down to 122.2km instead of 149km.
This came after consultation with rider representative Adam Hansen (Lotto Soudal) and Matt White, sports director of Mitchelton-Scott, with race director Mike Turtur explaining it was a collective decision.
‘The reason for this decision is the collective opinion of all representatives taking into consideration that the extreme weather conditions may result in a major peloton break-up which would be problematic on the finishing circuit,’ explained Turtur.
‘We consulted with rider representative Adam Hansen, team director representative Matthew White and with our chief commissaire, and all parties have agreed this is the sensible approach.’
Luckily for South Australian residents and the Tour Down Under peloton temperatures are expected to return to the mid-20s by the middle of the week with the expectation that the remaining stages will remain unchanged.
The organiser’s decision to reduce stage lengths is part of the UCI’s Extreme Weather Protocol, introduced in 2015, that allows races to be modified or even postponed in the event of unrideable weather such as extreme heat or heavy snowfall.
The Tour Down Under is one of the few races that is forced into considering the UCI‘s protocol on a regular basis. Adelaide is no stranger to temperature highs in excess of 40 degrees and just last year Stages 3 and 4 were reduced because of excessive heat.
The 21st Tour Down Under is due to start on Tuesday 15th January, taking on six stages before the final day on Willunga Hill on Sunday 20th.