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July 13, 2010 / Dave Gorham

Weather de France

Are you a fan of the Tour de France? I am. Even though the sportscasters on Versus (the U.S. network carrying the 97-year old bicycle race) say viewership is up dramatically over the past couple of years, I only know a few diehard fans who actually watch anything more than the daily (weekly?) highlights. Bicycle racing, another European export like soccer, just hasn’t caught on in America.

It’s certainly been an interesting week for the Tour. The three-week race is 10 days in, and there’s been excitement at every turn. As usual, the weather has played a critical role. Wind, heat, storms, rain and rapidly changing conditions have taken their turn at the fore of the race’s planning and execution.

It was while watching the race a few days ago when a comment by Versus race announcer Phil Liggett caught my attention. He said, "The racers are likely cooler than the spectators." At the time, western Europe was in the clutches of a heat wave and temperatures topping 90F were common. The high humidity only served to exacerbate the problem. The racers, surely, were steaming! They were pedaling their bikes to average speeds of about 28mph — how could they be cooler than the spectators? Really? Yes, indeed.

We can thank evaporative cooling. Back in February I blogged about evaporative cooling and its influence on the human body: As sweat evaporates it uses heat energy. In other words, as the sweat dries on the skin it pulls the heat away from the body. Toss in a bit of wind and the effect is amplified. Wind, that is, for the racers. For the spectators the air was rather still. Though the evaporating process was still cooling the body, the breeze enjoyed by the racers was of little comfort to those standing by the roadside. Therefore, Mr. Liggett’s comment was totally accurate.

Though the heat wave has slipped into central Europe, it’s still July and it’s still warm. Racers and spectators still need to be aware of the weather. Mountain showers and thunderstorms are always a threat and with a strong low pressure system nearly stationary over the United Kingdom, additional scattered showers and thunderstorms are possible for the next several days.

Tomorrow: The adiabatic lapse rate and what it means to the racing bicyclist. And you.

Today’s weather map of France The area of excessive heat has slipped east, but showers — if any — should be isolated across most of the country . Image: ImpactWeather Gmaps 2.0.

The 24 stages of the 2010 Tour de France. Showers for the Alps are possible today. Image: Wikipedia.

A classic Tour de France moment: A mountain stage from this year’s Tour. Photo:

More than the casual fan of bicycle racing: Here the author is hard at work moto-officiating a February bicycle race in Texas. Photo: Dave Gorham collection

One Comment

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  1. World of bicycle / Aug 30 2010 5:18 AM

    Nice tour de france bicycle, i think i will use it on my articles also.

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