RIDING in the Tour Down Under in South Australia has proved to be a real baptism of fire for Maryborough's Jay McCarthy.
Mother Nature ensured that in the opening stage of the annual event, a 149km ride from Prospect to Clare.
The 19-year-old McCarthy and the other 131 riders in the stage had to contend with red-hot conditions as temperatures were said to have reached 51 degrees Celsius.
The field also had to contend with blustery head and cross winds.
McCarthy, a member of the Fraser Coast Cycling Club who is riding for the UniSA team in the six-stage event, said it had been a tough day in the office.
"It was so hot - it was unreal to be honest," McCarthy, who finished second in the under-19 World Junior Road Racing Championships, said.
"I'd have to say that it was probably the hardest 149km I've ever done and I was exhausted come the end.
"I think I had something like 25 bottles of drink during the stage just to try and keep the fluids up and I can tell you that was a real battle."
But trying to combat the searing heat wasn't the only obstacle the former Aldridge State High School student had to contend with.
He got caught up in 15-man crash 800m from the finish line.
"This event is now a World Tour event and it offers ranking points to individual riders and their teams," he said.
"That means everybody's trying to score points and because of the heat there were a lot of tired guys out there.
"Teams jostled in a bid to put their main sprinters in a winning position and one rider's mistake caused a whole bunch to hit the deck.
"I was lucky - it was a soft crash for me and I was able to get back on and finish.
"A few others ended up in hospital."
McCarthy was back on his bike yesterday as the tour headed for the hills and a 148km stage from Lobethal to Stirling.
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