Race cyclists wilt, roads melt in scorching heat

2008-02-04 00:00

Only 24 of the 99 pro riders who started the Intakatech World’s View Challenge yesterday completed the event after the bulk of the pack were withdrawn before the 91 km mark as temperatures reached 48°C on the Polly Shortts section of the route.

"Hot and heavy" is how event director Alec Lenferna described day two of the major international cycling event.

This became a real challenge to competitors and officials and left spectators huddled in every available patch of shade on the route.

Many of the top cyclists succumbed to the temperature and melting tar, and a large gap opened between the breakaway group and the main peloton.

This necessitated withdrawing the main peloton from the race as they would have been caught by the back of the leaders as they looped on the course.

"It was really hot out there!" said SA rider Christoff van Heerden from team Konica Minolta, who won both King of the Mountain category climbs and the overall title for the day.

Pietermaritzburg’s scorching 37°C was only second to Richards Bay, which hit 39°C at noon, according to the Durban Weather Bureau. Durban hit 35°C and Ladysmith and Newcastle 31°C.

On the roads, tarmac melted and motorists reportedly took shelter under bridges.

"I just couldn’t drive on the tar road as my wheels were getting stuck and the melting tar splashed on my car’s fenders. This is so incredibly hot!" said motorist Deon Keppler.

Frustrated and angry motorists inundated The Witness with calls on Saturday and yesterday, claiming traffic officers were doing "a pathetic job in controlling the traffic". Motorists were made to wait for hours in one-way streets in the CBD before traffic officers could open the roads.

Today’s racing takes place mainly in industrial areas, and delays are expected.

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