Tour de France riders are strapping on ice vests and guzzling water amid a scorching heat wave

New Zealand's George Bennett wears an ice vest amid the French heat wave.

(CNN)A vicious heat wave has been baking Europe and its timing could not be any worse for riders in the Tour de France.

Each summer, the bicycle race takes over the entire country, with nearly 200 cyclists hurtling to the finish line. They ride for 23 days, a brutal affair for even the most prepared athletes. More than 20 teams have to make it through the 21 stages of the race.
But the continent is in the midst of a record heat wave that surely only makes it more difficult to bike thousands of miles in what's essentially a sweltering oven.
Some cyclists are strapping on ice vests before the start of each race, while others are consuming atypical amounts of water just to stay standing; the risks of heatstroke and other related injuries are high, and the asphalt may as well be the bottom of a frying pan.
    Though high temperatures have been sweeping Europe for the past few weeks, the ferocity of the heat blindsided many riders.
    "Yesterday on paper was a flat sprint stage to ease us back into the third week