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.
Tour de France 2011: Related links
Tour de France 2011: Cycling Weekly’s coverage index