Climate Change Could Make The Tour De France A Lot Hotter

In the eyes of much of the world, competitive cycling is threatened most by its headline-grabbing doping scandal. Just a few weeks ago, disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong claimed it was “impossible” to win the Tour de France without taking performance enhancing drugs. But it turns out climate change might be more of a threat to the sport — and its famous race — than doping.

An article in Quartz Friday looked at moderate and extreme climate change projections in France for 2050 and 2100. It found that, in a moderate warming scenario, temperatures in the south of France will increase by 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit by 2050, with spikes of eight or nine degrees under an extreme warming scenario, causing potentially “brutal” conditions for cyclists. Extreme weather poses a big threat to the sport too — this year, some cyclists in a major race in Italy crashed because of the race’s rainy, wet conditions. The article points out that cycling, even more than other sports, has a lot to lose from climate change:

Rising temperatures and increasingly severe storms threaten the Tour de France more so than any other professional sporting event, snowsports aside. The Tour requires traversable roads at the highest Alpine passes and fan-friendly temperatures on the streets of Paris. Without those two conditions, the Tour cannot be both sufficiently challenging and commercially successful. And obviously, the race can’t be held in an air-conditioned dome, like a soccer match.

Cycling is far from the only sport threatened by climate change, however. Winter sports are, of course, among those already affected most by increasing temperatures — a mild winter forced Olympic officials to ship in thousands of tons of snow to Vancouver in 2010, and Russia is already stockpiling snow for the 2014 Olympics. Alaska’s Iditarod dog sled race hasn’t started in its traditional point in Wasilla in more than a decade, because there hasn’t been enough snow there. As snowfall becomes lighter and less reliable, the $12.2 billion winter sports industry in the U.S. could take major hits: according to one study, by 2039 more than half of the 103 ski resorts in the Northeast U.S. will have to cut their seasons to fewer than 100 days if certain warming scenarios prove to be accurate.

The threat worries winter athletes: In April, 75 winter Olympians wrote a letter calling on President Obama to address climate change so that their sports might be saved.

But it’s not just winter sports that are in jeopardy because of warming temperatures. Heat waves, especially in the South, are making high school football a potentially deadly activity. A March snowstorm created unusual conditions for a World Cup qualifying match in Denver — strange weather that could become more common in a changing climate. And as water temperatures rise and yearly snowmelt decreases, trout habitats are becoming more and more unstable, threatening the sport of flyfishing.

6 Responses to Climate Change Could Make The Tour De France A Lot Hotter

  1. Chris says:

    They could just hold it a month earlier.

  2. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Or start in the morning or evening. Mind you, we run the ‘Tour Down Under’ in South Australia at the height of summer, and they pedal in 40 degrees plus temperatures most years. Not too bright, your average velocipedist.

  3. rollin says:

    Maybe cyclists will adapt by increasing their sweat gland count or growing radiative dorsal fins. Maybe drugs will let them tolerate the heat better.

    The great hope for skiing is an artificial snow that doesn’t melt until 5 deg C. Possible a caged system similar to a methane clathrate. Even better if it doesn’t melt at all, saves water or whatever is used to make it.

    Forget the sports people, worry about all the animals and plants that are going to be stressed and possibly die out because of this change. When is the human race going to get it’s head on straight?

  4. wili says:

    This seems like an event that could be essentially carbon neutral, yet they have all those trucks and other vehicles following them around everywhere.

    Are they all really completely necessary?

    How about one emergency vehicle on hand (with water, basic medical supplies, some tools and parts…) and haul most of the rest of the stuff around by bike or source it locally?

    Wouldn’t that make a big statement to the world that this sport is about more than performance enhancing drugs and over-inflated egos?

  5. Timothy Hughbanks says:

    Just to be clear: not all “doping” involves performance-enhancing drugs. Blood doping is done by transfusing blood into an athelete and can, if they have prepared in advance, be the transfusing their own blood – with much of the plasma removed so as to enrich it in red blood cells for enhanced oxygen carrying capacity. It isn’t necessarily harmless, but no other drugs are involved in such caases.

  6. Robert In New Orleans says:

    By the time the lack of snow makes a big impact on the Winter Olympics, I suspect that climate destabilization will have made this issue very trivial in the greater scheme of things