Riders disperse as hailstorm hits final Tour de France climb

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Chaos reigned over the professional peloton during the second stage of the Criterium du Dauphine as the riders were caught up in a huge hailstorm in the final stages.Shortly after the top riders – led by race leader and Tour de France favorite Primoz Roglic – crossed the finish line on the Col de Porte in France, the storm struck, grabbing the remains of the peloton outdoors.

Images taken inside the team’s cars showed riders ditching their bikes and taking cover as hail bombarded them, turning the road into a blanket of ice.

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After the race, Deceuninck-QuickStep rider Tim Declercq posted a photo of his back, with angry red markings from where the hail hit him.

His comment “as if the Dauphine was not painful enough for the legs” summed up the situation perfectly.

He was far from being the only victim.

Jumbo-Visma time trial specialist Tony Martin was seen helping a fan climb a hill to shelter under a tree and under the fan’s inflatable raft.

Guy Niv, a pilot for Israel Start-Up Nation, said that “it was quite painful” and “it was not the best experience”.

“Normally when you have this kind of hail you stay home,” he says.

His teammate Nil Politt said he had to take cover in a fan’s tent on the side of the road.

Even the riders who had finished the race were caught in the storm, post-race presentations were cut short when the inflatable stage exploded as defending Tour de France champion Egan Bernal received the jersey white of the young pilot.

The post-race TV interview with teammate Chris Froome was also affected when a thunderclap shocked the five-time Tour de France winner, prompting a TV reporter to comment ‘the gods have spoken’.

The Criterium du Dauphine, which takes place every year in the south-east of France, is the traditional warm-up race before the Tour de France.

This year’s tour, delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, will begin on August 29.

Some stages of the Criterium du Dauphine take place on the same roads as the peloton will run during the Tour a few weeks later.

The form in the five-stage Dauphine is often used as a barometer for how competent a rider will be in the three-week, 21-stage Tour de France.

Froome, who is trying to get back in shape before the 2020 Tour de France, is back in the race after recovering from near-catastrophic injuries he suffered during a fall during a reconnaissance of the Dauphine 2019.

He faces an uphill battle to even be selected for the Team Ineos Tour squad to support Bernal and 2018 champion Geraint Thomas after finishing 14 minutes behind race leader Roglic.

Team Ineos, who have won seven of the last eight Tour de France titles, including under their previous iteration of Team Sky, face a battle to face Roglic’s powerful Jumbo-Visma team.

Richie Porte, one of six Australians in the race, finished in the lead group 10 seconds behind the stage winner.

-ABC



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