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Sunday, April 18, 2021

The Seriously Wintry Weekend Around Europe

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In person, you would never know that this is a warm day in the Czech Republic. So many of the athletes who will compete in five races on the final day of a week-long tour around Europe are already wearing helmets and knee pads. But these athletes may be the only ones in the country wearing layers, as the November chill that is supposed to hit the continent has yet to arrive.

At first, it appears that most of the official road races around Europe will go off as planned, but as I learn more about the effect of this massive multihour tour and travel on the main sport of winter sports — ice hockey and curling — more and more races seem to be becoming more and more difficult to get to.

Which is not to say, of course, that all the competitions will be postponed. Often their organizers — and curling fans, particularly — worry too much about getting their events on the ice. Snow is falling over Belfast and Tirone, Italy, where the last and last of the six World Curling Championships are being played. But snow can get in the way, making the ice murky or even impossible to play on.

Fans in these smaller towns already worried about if and when curling competitions would begin tried to jam more matches in on one side of town to make room for more players, to give themselves a bit more time to get to the city in time.

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In plenty of cities, where ice is used daily, the water sometimes finds a home on the ice in a patch of the rink that happens to have an edge of cold, but this isn’t a problem at the championships. The games will go on as scheduled in the cities and cities will try to get ice time as quickly as possible if the temperatures keep falling.

When spectators in these communities enter the rink, they may be asking themselves — as a couple of walkway photographers found themselves doing — why everyone is wearing so many layers. Why aren’t we all still wearing shorts?

Luckily, some of the curling competitions have featured racing. At the Antwerp leg of the Grand Slam of Curling Tour in Belgium, races have been hosted and courses have been shortened. Curling fans will also be able to participate in those races at a race center in Alcester, Belgium, and here’s hoping that the weather stays cold when they do.

Of course, some of the races that track around Europe on bikes don’t entail racing. But when you are racing around the Eiffel Tower, how cold is cold enough? There’s no reason to think that any of the races I’ve talked to have followed my advice. But those could be in jeopardy next year.

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