UCI to introduce ‘High Temperature Protocol’ for 2024 in response to climate change

Initiative grants new powers to protect rider safety on the hottest days in response to extreme conditions in recent seasons

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Jonas Vingegaard struggles in the heat at the Tour de France.
© A.S.O./Charly Lopez

Cycling’s governing body, the UCI, has announced new measures to protect riders from the effects of extreme heat.

The timing is appropriate as the weeks tick down to the 2024 season kicking off with Australia’s Tour Down Under on January 12, at which riders have historically faced some of the most intense conditions of any race on the calendar.

Temperatures at the event regularly exceed 40°C (104°F), while Europe’s prestigious Grand Tours – the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia, and Vuelta a España – have increasingly battled extreme heat as climate change makes its impact felt on the sporting calendar.

The UCI explicitly linked the announcement to global warming, declaring the decision had been made “in view of the climate changes that the world has been facing in recent years”.

The new ‘High Temperature Protocol’ grants powers to a safety panel to take action to protect riders in the event of high temperatures or humidity.

The options outlined include moving start zones into the shade, changing start times, or modifying or postponing race routes.

The UCI’s announcement also outlines other measures such as “supplying teams with cold drinks and crushed ice during the race and increasing the number of refueling motorbikes”.

The move won’t be officially confirmed until the UCI management committee meets at the end of January, but BikeTips understands that the protocol will already be in place before that date when the 2024 season’s curtain-raising Tour Down Under begins.

“The health, safety, and well-being of our cyclists are of the utmost importance,” UCI President David Lappartient announced in the governing body’s press release.

“That is why the UCI is continually working to respond to new situations and adapt its protocols in line with the changing environment in which cyclists evolve.”

Matteo Jorgenson suffers in the extreme heat after a race in Oman, which would be covered by the UCI High Temperature Protocol.
© A.S.O./Oman Cycling Association/Thomas Maheux

Will the High Temperature Protocol make any difference?

Though any move to protect rider safety should be welcomed, some might be forgiven for wondering whether the new protocol will make any practical difference.

The UCI itself states that “the components of this protocol will remain the same as those of the existing Extreme Weather Protocol”, which was established in 2015 and is already intended to cover “all adverse weather conditions”, including extreme heat.

Nonetheless, the new protocol will establish clearer guidelines as to what meets the threshold of “extreme high temperatures”, and a stronger framework as to how race organizers should respond, which should provide some extra protection to riders.

However, more cynical fans might argue that the increasing regularity of lucrative races held in the scorching climates of the Middle East means the UCI bears some responsibility for exposing cyclists to extreme conditions more often than necessary.

That major races such as the Tour de France have previously faced criticism for their high carbon emissions – a major contributor to global warming – may also factor in the lukewarm reception to the High Temperature Protocol.

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As a UESCA-certified cycling coach, Rory loves cycling in all its forms, but is a road cyclist at heart. He clocked early on that he had much more of a talent for coaching and writing about bikes than he ever did racing them. In recent years, the focus of Rory's love affair with cycling has shifted to bikepacking - a discipline he found well-suited to his "enthusiasm-over-talent" approach.

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