Riders forced under makeshift rafts as hailstorm batters Critérium du Dauphiné

Riders forced under makeshift rafts as hailstorm batters Critérium du Dauphiné

If there is a God, they were looking down on the Critérium du Dauphiné today, waiting for Primož Roglič and company to cross the finish line before the heavens opened and hailstorms rained down upon mountainside fans as well as the riders still battling up the Col de Porte.

A crack of thunder had interrupted Chris Froome’s post-race interview, coincidentally during a question about Jumbo-Visma, the team reminiscent of thunderbolts both in appearance and the way they’ve been racing post-lockdown.

Not long after, the hail began. Fans rushed for cover and Egan Bernal was escorted off a collapsing podium.

Egan Bernal leaving the Dauphiné podium as it collapses (Jonny Long)

Jumbo-Visma’s Tony Martin still hadn’t crossed the line, retreating to the roadside with spectators, hiding under an inflatable raft whilst waiting for the skies to clear.

“There’s Tony!” Mrs Roglič cried out after recognising the German finally crossing the line. She had sought refuge from the hailstones along with Primož Junior inside our car as we queued to get down the mountain, the yellow lion teddy left to fend for itself under a marquee outside.

“Luckily it’s the Panzerwagen,” she added. If any of the Jumbo-Visma squad could have survived an HC climb during such adverse weather conditions, he could.

Primož Roglič’s family sheltering from the hailstorm (Jonny Long)

Riders battled to stay within the time limit, including Dan Martin, who sheltered in the VIP tent for 20 minutes before being able to get to his team bus to warm-up. The Irishman crashed on the stage and will now undergo medical checks to evaluate his condition.

Another rider who suffered physically was Tim Declerq, the tractor receiving a few scratches to the paintwork during his ascent. “As if the Dauphiné was not painful enough for the legs,” he joked afterwards.

“I was happy that it was raining,” Jumbo-Visma’s Sepp Kuss had said before the worst of the weather arrived and changed his mind. “The last few days and the first race of the season [return] I was dying in the heat so when I saw the rain I thought it could be a good day.”

The way Jumbo-Visma are riding since racing resumed, another storm seems to be brewing. The Dutch squad so far looks to have the measure of Ineos, the two top WorldTour teams set to continue testing each other out over the next few days in this warm-up race, whatever the weather.