I've endured some pretty sweltering summers at home in Australia. I've seen the thermometer go over 45 degrees Celsius many times and usually retreat to air conditioning or a swimming pool to escape it.
The last thing I would do in those temperatures is ride a bike. Or if I must, I would leave home at 5am to avoid it as much as possible.
Here at the Tour de San Luis, it appears that they have the opposite idea. The temperature has been consistently above 40 degrees and the stages start in the middle of the day, resulting in the hottest days I have ever spent on the bike.
I thought stage one was hot. I thought stage 2 was hotter. Then came stage 3. 173km with an average temperature of 43 degrees. Not a single bit of shade and to top it off, the entire stage was fought in strong cross winds.
From the moment the race started, I was thirsty and it seems that all we did the entire race was to go back and get water bottles from the car. In the 24hr period of the day of the race, I estimate I consumed close to 17L of water and it was still not enough.
With stage 4 being another long, hot day with a climb at the end, it was a race to rehydrate before it began. Drinking water alone was not enough as you have to replace the huge amounts of salt that is crusted to your kit when you finish each day.
Stage 4 started with some respite. Although the temperatures were still in the 40's, a slight tail wind made it a little easier and at times you forgot just how hot it was. Then we hit the final climb.
At the base, it was 45 degrees. It seemed that no matter how slow you went, the body was producing more heat than what it could get rid of. As a result, riders were pouring water on their heads in an effort to cool down.
A few km's up the climb and we started to run out of water, realising that there was still a long way to go. At this point, riders started to beg spectators on the side of the road for water. Anyone with a bottle with anything to spare so that they could pour it over themselves. 'Agua! Agua! Por favor!!'
I'm not gonna lie, I was one of these people begging. I felt like my head was going to explode and my feet were burning from the heat. I had unzipped my jersey, taken off my gloves and sunglasses in an effort to cool down but it felt like it did nothing. Several times, I genuinely considered stopping in what little shade I could find.
The last few days have been, by far, the hottest I have ever spent on a bike and I still have 3 more to go. At least it is going to make the rest of the season feel easier. Or at least it better!