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Tour de Romandie kicks off as rain ends prolonged dry spell

Two-time defending Tour de France champion Chris Froome will test his form ahead of his bid for a fourth title in July at this week's Tour de Romandie.

Tour de Romandie kicks off as rain ends prolonged dry spell
File photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP
The Swiss race is designed to prepare riders for the Tour de France starting with Tuesday's 4.8km prologue at Aigle, and including two mountain finishes before culminating with a tough 17.8km time-trial Sunday in Lausanne.
   
Faithful to his winning pre-Tour de France formula the 31-year-old Briton will be backed up by French teammate Kenny Elissonde, whose help will be particularly precious in the mountains.
   
Froome won the Swiss race in 2013 and 2014 going on to win the Tour de France in 2013, 2015 and 2016.
  
This year's race brings together the 18 World Tour teams plus one invitation for Belgian outfit Wanty.
   
Several big names are absent including last year's top two Nairo Quintana of Colombia and France's Thibaut Pinot, who will compete in the Giro d'Italia on May 5th.
   
Swiss rider Michael Albasini has already won six stages and will bid to close in on the overall record of 12 held by Italian Mario Cipollini.
 
Unluckily for the riders, the start of the Tour coincides with the beginning of a rainy, cold spell after many weeks of sunshine. 
 
According to MeteoSuisse “significant precipitation” is predicted for all regions of the country. “It brings an end to a period of dry weather that has lasted more than four weeks in certain areas of French-speaking Switzerland”.
 
Until now, the sun has shone in the region for 40-50 hours more than normal during April, it added.
 
The last “significant” rainfall in the area was on March 22nd.
 
And if that wasn't bad enough for the Tour cyclists, a drop in temperatures means snowfall is predicted down to 800m on on Wednesday.
 
That day the Tour route takes riders from Aigle in the Rhône valley up to Champéry at 1,033m. 
 
Riders also faced snow and chilly conditions in last year's race.

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WILDFIRES

2022 sees record wildfire destruction in Europe: EU

Europe's blistering summer may not be over yet, but 2022 is already breaking records, with nearly 660,000 hectares ravaged since January, according to the EU's satellite monitoring service.

2022 sees record wildfire destruction in Europe: EU

And while countries on the Mediterranean have normally been the main seats of fires in Europe, this year, other countries are also suffering heavily.

Fires this year have forced people to flee their homes, destroyed buildings and burned forests in EU countries, including Austria, Croatia, France, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain.

Some 659,541 hectares (1.6 million acres) have been destroyed so far, data from the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS) showed, setting a record at this point in the year since data collection began in 2006.

Europe has suffered a series of heatwaves, forest fires and historic drought that experts say are being driven by human-induced climate change.

They warn more frequent and longer heatwaves are on the way.

The worst-affected country has been Spain, where fire has destroyed 244,924 hectares, according to EFFIS data.

The EFFIS uses satellite data from the EU’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS).

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How the climate crisis is hitting Europe hard

The data comes after CAMS said Friday that 2022 was a record year for wildfire activity in southwestern Europe and warned that a large proportion of western Europe was now in “extreme fire danger”.

“2022 is already a record year, just below 2017,” EFFIS coordinator Jesus San-Miguel said. In 2017, 420,913 hectares had burned by August 13, rising to 988,087 hectares by the end of the year.

“The situation in terms of drought and extremely high temperatures has affected all of Europe this year and the overall situation in the region is worrying, while we are still in the middle of the fire season,” he said.

Since 2010, there had been a trend towards more fires in central and northern Europe, with fires in countries that “normally do not experience fires in their territory”, he added.

“The overall fire season in the EU is really driven mainly by countries in the Mediterranean region, except in years like this one, in which fires also happen in central and northern regions,” he added.

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