Lieuwe Westra raises his arms after winning the first stage of the Tour of… (Gregory Bull / Associated…)
ESCONDIDO, Calif. — Lieuwe Westra, red-faced and shaking, was the winner of Sunday's first stage at the Amgen Tour of California, on a day when temperatures on the route were recorded as high as 105 degrees.
James Stemper, of the 5-hour Energy/Kenda Racing team, who was awarded the title as most courageous rider for helping lead an early breakaway, said, "Heat was probably the biggest factor of the day. Eventually you could not pedal very hard."
Carter Jones, who rides for the Bissell Pro Cycling team and who earned the most points toward winning the King of the Mountain title as best uphill rider, said, "The heat was brutal. That was definitely the hardest part of the day. We haven't seen anything like this all year."
Westra, a 31-year-old from the Netherlands who rides for the Vacansoleil-DCM Procycling team, edged out Francisco Mancebo of the 5-hour Energy/Kenda team, at the finish line. Westra's winning time was 4 hours 31.23 seconds. Mancebo recorded a time of 4:31.27. Peter Sagan, who had won a record five stages at last year's race, was third, 12 seconds behind Westra.
Most of the important early-season racing has taken place in Europe, where the spring has been rainy and cool.
Ramin Modabber, the race's medical director, said because of the high temperatures, riders were allowed to get food and water earlier and later into the 102.7-mile stage that began and finished in Escondido and which featured over 11,000 feet of vertical climbing.
As Jones, Stemper and Westra sat on the podium during the post-stage news conference, Modabber said, "They should be sitting in nice, cold ice baths getting their core temperatures down for [Monday]. We have to be careful on stages like this."
Monday's 124.1-mile stage from Murrieta to the top of the tramway outside of Palm Springs is not expected to offer much in the way of cooler weather.
The temperature is predicted to be as high as 102 in Murrieta, suggesting that Monday's story will be the same as Sunday's – weather and water.
Westra, in response to a question about the heat said, "I was dropped on the last climb. The legs were not so good. But I came back and I saw a lot of teams doing not much riding so I thought, 'Why not?' and took off. I was lucky Mancebo was with me and that he was strong."
Then Westra took a drink of water. He will probably need more than one to recover in time to do it again Monday.