Today’s Etape du Tour in the Massif Central was hit by extreme weather causing hundreds to abandon and stretch the organisation to the limit.

Pouring rain and sleet caused what could be the highest ever drop out rate in the Etape’s history. As many as five buses were full of riders at the first feed station where others had to wait as more buses were called in.

The weather remained bad all day and riders were seen sheltering in houses along the route, crammed in to phone boxes and in farm sheds.

The route of the sportive covers the Tour’s ninth stage from Issoire to Saint Flour.

Unconfirmed rumours were of the event being cancelled at the Col du Pas de Peyrol, the second category climb, 99.5km in to the 208km stage. Riders were apparently still stranded at the town of Le Puy Mary on the Col du Pas de Peyrol several hours later, waiting to be evacuated.

Today’s Etape is the second of two events this year, the first time organisers Mondovélo have done this. Last Sunday saw 7,000 riders take on the 109.5km stage from Modane Valfréjus to Alpe d’Huez.

That event was run off in 37 degree heat, although it wasn’t without incident. Five riders were reportedly airlifted to hospital after crashing in the tunnels of the descent of the Col de Lautaret.

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  • donnacha galvin

    toughest day ever on a bike,started in last pen so had bad weather all day,ended up 324th in my first etape. could nt pull the brakes decending to the first food station and i think what saved my day was i only stopped to get water and headed off straight away,so cold i had to stop at the side of the road and ask someone to open my gels!!!! some sense of achievement at the end though and all the months of training paid off

  • Nicola Field

    Fantastic Achievement to my brother Andrew for finishing the race. Congratulations also to all his friends who also participated.

  • wayne christensen

    You riders are awesome!!! And you do this for sport?! So proud of my son Dane Christensen, first time out for anything like this. Came home #257.
    In his words: ” My hands so cold couldn’t change gear. Feet frozen the entire 8 hours. “

  • Fiona De Wulf

    I was already fairly proud of my brother who completed the race but having read all of this I’ve realised that he is a REAL hero !! Well done HAJ !

  • Chris

    Hi Anon,

    My comments were mainly about the dozens of riders I saw who were inappropriately kitted out, many in summer gear. I was stunned. I’ve not ridden many cols but know that weather conditions can change dramatically, even in good weather.

    I did start at the back as well (last group), but I’m a pretty quick rider. As I said I think the conditions were very tough and the overal times were a lot slower than normal/expected (e.g. only ~50 riders meeting the published gold standard) and as a result this meant that, unfortunately, a lot more people than normal would end up being eliminated at the checkpoints/sweeper. While very harsh I think this was the right thing to do from a safety perspective alone, as as you point out support on the road was only planned for up to that point, and this is primary reason for eliminating riders outside of that time. As you say, incredibley disappointing for those who have put in many months worth of training.

    Fair play to you for continuing, and I hope you get the opportunity to ride another one of these in better conditions, as I’m sure it will be a walk in the park in the comparison !

  • Helen

    I have an Aussie mate who completed the Etape. So far this summer he has ridden a 300km sportive in Sweden, the GF Marco Pantani, the Maratona, the GF Fausto Coppi and now the Etape in the worst conditions for years. Respect Lew!!

  • anon

    I think Chris’ comments are a little harsh. I presume he started in one of the earlier groups, or is a particularly quick rider, but for those of us starting an hour later as charity riders forced to the back of the start we missed out on an hour of clear skies and had to contend with rain and awful conditions from the start. Despite being well prepared with waterproofs our pace was slowed hugely by the wind on the first long “gentle” climb and we became incredibly cold on the first decent to the initial feed station where so many people gave up. Despite being eliminated by the sweeper van 30 mins later and then the police attempting to close the route to us at the Col de Peyrol (delaying us by another 30 mins) we persisted and completed both Peyrol and Perthus climbs before it became clear that there was little support left on the course and we would be putting ourselves in danger continuing. There was certainly no sunshine still at this point and the tops of the cols were shrouded in cloud and freezing cold and wet making the descents treacherous. We worked out a shortcut to get to the finish (still cycling 100 miles) so avoided having to use a bus to get there as we felt compelled by our many generous sponsors to put in the best effort we could. It was a very disappointing day for those of us who put in many months training and a lot of effort to attempt the course and those who didn’t make it should still be able to hold their heads up for the supreme effort made to get as far as they did.

  • Chris

    Certainly tough conditions. I wore a mack and arm warmers and although I was cold, particularly my fingers, the thought of stopping never entered my mind. After 60miles (~100km), the weather changed, and we had sunshine (I removed said mack and armwarmers). The organisers (who did a fantastic job overall) made everyone aware what the weather was going to be like. I think all riders have an obligation to ensure that they are properly kitted out.

  • Jean Hutson

    Just want to say ‘Well done’ and ‘Congratulations to our Son Graham with the Sky team for completing the ride despite the appallling weather. What an achievment We are very proud of you. Just glad you are back safe & sound.

  • stretch

    I did it, and stopped at first checkpoint, unable to brake, change gears, hold my bidon, and shaking uncontrollably. And there were plenty worse than me! Never been so cold in my life, nor more uncomfortable on a bike.

  • Dylan Wyn Pugh

    Horrendous conditions riding as part of the Sky Velo team and Gendarmes tried to stop the event at the top of one of the climbs at 130kms keeping us there for 15mins before rising French tensions won over and they opened up the course again albeit very briefly. From then on it was a race against the clock & the sweeper bus to stay in the event, finding myself sprinting for approx 70kms to finish…well done everyone who went out yesteday!

  • Maureen Dodds

    Our son, with the Sky team, did 113 kms before abandoning, and he believes the road ahead may have been blocked , but he describes it as ‘carnage’ for everyone and we hope that all participants are safe.

  • Julia

    My husband and his friend managed to finish their first Etape today – what an achievement given the conditions! They too spoke of hypothermic riders. It makes you respect the Tour riders even more, it’s brutal!

  • Dawn Couzens

    Would just like to say well done to my husband Andre & his friends Andrew, Brian & the others that made it to the end, very proud :-) a very tough day. Reading all the comments, well done to those who did not make it too for even trying.

  • Ken

    Just back to the hotel from the Etape. Worst weather I’ve ever ridden in. Hypothermia set in at 60 km and I couldn’t control the bike on a descent and had to abandon. Well done to anyone who got more than 70 km done.

  • Hilary Perchard

    The article is right. They had to stop. Weather was atrocious. Wind in you face all day. Horizontal rain. Freezing cold. Lots of people looking quite hypothermic. Really hope everyone gets home ok.

  • dai bananas brother

    Crikey hope they all get out in one piece. Shades of the blizzard on the Ventoux in 2000 and the hurricaine at the top of Luz-Ardiden the following year