While mainland France is facing a heat wave, an unprecedented drought, as well as several fires (in the forests of Gironde, in particular, more than 20,000 hectares have been smoked), a simple video goes be enough to put fuel on the fire of social media. For a few seconds, we see a tanker truck pouring a row of water wires on a paved road. At the top right of the images, the Tour de France logo is displayed. “Global Climate Policy Summary”laments a user on Twitter.
😳 Summary of global climate policy 🌎 Water the roads to cool the asphalt of the Tour de France runners 🚴 ♂️🚴🚴 ♀️ pic.twitter.com/LCdpPfCnJN
The French were not the only ones to rebel. Many have shared it that way tweet from a German journalistthe first – according to the occurrences consulted by CheckNews – to comment on the tanker truck video, Friday afternoon. And regret it “This pretty much sums up global climate policy”. At the same time, a figure has circulated a lot: 10,000 liters of water, which would correspond to the stock available to the organizers of the Volta to cool the road. The figure was quoted prominently in an article published on Saturday afternoon on the BFM TV-RMC website.
The case immediately made politicians react, starting with David Belliard, deputy mayor of Paris in charge of transport. Who is writing: “In the midst of a heat wave, therefore, thousands of gallons of water will be used (wasted in real life) to irrigate the roadway and cool the passage of runners”. Finally, some have revived the controversy with irony. While the French fleet of water bombers mobilizes on the various fires, the satirical place the echo of the loopso he tweeted: “Burning temperatures in the Tour de France 2022: Canadians required to abundantly irrigate roads before runners pass”.
“A department cistern”
Would the Grande Boucle ignore water restrictions to be able to irrigate roads before cyclists pass? The video at the root of the collective outrage, where we hear two commentators debate in German, can be found entirely in place of a German-speaking Swiss medium. Media that returns, in an article published on Saturday, to the context in which these images were shot. “From Friday, during the stage to Saint-Etienne, unusual scenes take place before the passage of the professionals. Along the route, trucks of several tons pass in front of spectators. Trucks are loaded each time with up to 10,000 liters of water, which is slowly spread over the asphalt over long stretches. The reason for this convoy of water: the organizers, with the help of local firefighters, are thus cooling the road surface.we can read.
Except that the trucks in question have nothing to do with the organization of the Grande Boucle. What we see in the video “it is not at all an accredited vehicle of the Tour de France, it is a tank of the department that was crossed by the Tour”, replaces Fabrice Tiano, the press contact within the cycling department of Amaury Sport Organization (organizer of the Tour de France). In fact it is “usual” that the departments, in charge of the maintenance of the departmental roads, watch over that they are it “Refresh to prevent bleeding”that is, the appearance on the surface of molten bitumen slabs.
Thus, during the summer periods, departments use various techniques designed to delay or limit bleeding in a sustainable way. When Tour organizers simply look for it “optimize the exact place where the runner will put the guts, to prevent it from falling”adds André Bancala, the general coordinator of the Assembly of the Departments of France [ADF est partenaire du Tour depuis que la compétence «Routes» a été transférée aux départements, en 2004]. The action of the departments also benefits the Tour de France, as this “go through treated roads”but these pathways are treated in all cases, “Outside the Passage du Tour”to protect “everyday users”.
A stock of 2000 and not 10,000 liters
Another point addressed: the existence of a stock of 10,000 liters of water during the duration of the race. If so many media mention it, it is mainly because the information appears in a post published online Sunday by the Agence France Presse, the content of which is widely reported in the French press. AFP indicates that members of the Tour de France organization have done so “Water the roads to cool the bitumen and prevent the tar from melting. For this, a stock of 10,000 liters of water is planned for the Tour, according to André Bancala.. The “Mister Route” of the Tour then corrected the figure: the stock, according to him, is not 10,000 liters, but 2,000.
Contacted by Check NewsAndré Bancala evokes a “confusion perhaps linked to a problem of understanding an oral explanation”, due to the sound proximity between “ten” and “two”. He then details the device used in the framework of the partnership between the ADF and the Tour:A technical truck that we have been using for over ten years. and which circulates from the beginning to the end of each stage. Located between the caravan and the race, the vehicle has inherited, over the years, the nickname “Gros Léon”.
In front of the truck,a broom allows you to remove everything that is on the route of the Tour that is dangerous for the race »which represents “90% of interventions”. In addition, Gros Léon “has two tanks of one cubic meter each, therefore 2,000 liters in total”, placed in its container (as can be seen in the photo below). And not 10,000 liters, a volume of water that “It would be impossible to transport on the narrow roads we take for the Tour”.
At the start of the Tour by French soil (on July 5 this year, after passing through Denmark), these tanks are filled. Then, explains the ADF coordinator, water is used “how and when needed”. “The tank has a capacity of 2,000 liters, but that does not mean that 2,000 liters are used every day”underlines Fabrice Tiano.
For Arnaud Schwartz, president of France Nature Environnement (federation of associations involved in environmental protection), it is necessary “Put the numbers in perspective: 2,000 liters, that means 200 sprinklers of 10 liters “. Certainly “This controversy reveals an increase in sensitivity at the moment to the problem of climate change”. But “if only these 200 irrigators from all over the Tour de France are dealing with us at the moment, it’s because we still haven’t fully understood the problem.”. Other initiatives could, in fact, save much larger amounts of water. And to quote “wash car bodies”which requires an average of 200 liters of water per vehicle, although it is an act “superficial, aesthetic, that has no security aspect”.
1,000 liters used at this stage
When it comes to irrigating the roads of the Grande Boucle, on what occasions can you decide? Only “When the conditions of the race require itsummarizes Fabrice Tiano. And it only refers to a few tens or hundreds of meters.. “Especially because when we water, we drive almost at a man’s pace, so we only treat delimited portions, otherwise it would take a long time.” adds André Bancala.
Therefore, water can be sprayedto clean things on the road: diesel, straw, earth, cow dung … ”On “to deal with sweats “ . “In a straight line and uphill, he is not very afraid,says the road specialist. When we are in a downhill area, in turns, riders can go to the mat if there is sweat. So here I will use water, and lower the road temperature again, so that they can pass with maximum safety conditions.
The 2003 Tour, a year that follows at the top of the ranking of the hottest summers in France, was marked by the fall of cyclist Joseba Beloki, arriving in Gap (Hautes-Alpes). However, the Spaniard had fallen precisely because of a hemorrhage on a stretch of road that precedes a bend. A similar move of wheels almost knocked down Norwegian Amund Grøndahl Jansen this year, as reported by Eurosport in its summary of Friday’s stage. It is to avoid this type of accident that water spray on bitumen is justified, estimates the Ministry of Ecological Transition, added by Check Newssince “Roads reach very high temperatures and, with the rubbing of a fall, can cause burns and serious injuries.”.
For this edition of 2022, according to André Bancala, only three stages have been preceded by interventions, asking “about half the 2,000 liters” . For example, of the 202.5 kilometers traveled on Sunday, “A total length of 150 to 200 meters, in three different areas”has been treated with water, implying “A total of 300-350 liters”.
Depending on the conditions, in some years the deposits must be filled several times. Other times, they remain unused. “On rotten weather excursions, we left with water and returned to Paris with the same”remembers André Bancala.
In this scorching summer, the Tour de France could, even if it only started with a stock of 2,000 liters of water, be subject to restrictions on its use. Everything happens at the level of prefectures, recalls the Ministry of Ecological Transition. Which they decide considering both “Drought and safety of motorcyclists”.
At this stage, no particular measures have been imposed, as the Tour has not yet crossed a territory classified as “crisis”, where water is reserved for “priority uses”, according to the map of the Ministry of Ecological transition of the state. of orders limiting water use. On the other hand, if the organization of the cycling race decides to irrigate sections of the road at the stage of July 22, this could reactivate the controversy. Two of the departments crossed that day, Tarn-et-Garonne and Lot, are subject to drastic water restrictions.
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