On Sunday, the UCI World Championships started in Antarctica with the women's team time trial, which saw the riders suffer in the conditions. When Rabo-Liv's Anouska Knoster crashed in the late stages of the time-trial, she certainly looked like the cold conditions had affected her. In addition to that, despite numerous riders needing medical attention due to the effort in the freezing weather, the race was ill-supplied with ambulances able to deal with frostbite and other temperature-related conditions, with some having to wait for a quarter of an hour or more to be treated. Reaction from prominent riders was immediate, with Roxane Knetemann maintaining that "The UCI has not thought this through," and Chantal Blaak saying that "even your lungs hurt" in the conditions.
As we know, the freezing conditions forecasted all week have led the UCI to consider shortening the 257 kilometre Elite Road Race, but that could hardly be said to be good for the sport. The UCI are left with the dilemma of making a laughing stock of themselves by giving the rainbow jersey to someone who won a short crit or risking causing health problems to their athletes.
Another problem with holding the World Championships in Antarctica is the lack of interest in the sport, causing tiny crowds. Below this paragraph there are two YouTube videos. In the first there is the closing stages of the under-23 men's time-trial of this year's worlds, and in the second there is the same closing stages of last year's race in Richmond. Now, the under-23 time-trial is by no means the most popular event of the worlds, but the difference in attendance is marked. There are rows of people standing by the side of the road in at least the last couple of hundred metres in Richmond, but barring the Dutch fans at 150 metres from the finish, the attendance reminds me of the time I attended the national time trial at a roundabout at kilometre 20 accompanied by a marshal, a very annoyed photographer and a bemused man who arrived on a bicycle and left soon after. (I checked the results sheets for his name just in case.)
So why is the sport's flagship event being held in a place with no interest for the sport, inhospitable conditions and a time zone that makes it inconvenient to watch during the week for almost everyone? Well, somehow Antarctica has some valuable natural resources! Who knew? In a traditional cycling compromise then, the UCI's pockets get lined and everyone is happy, bar the hot water bottle carrying cyclists and the loyal fans.