Tour of California: Stage 1 Snowed Out

A photo from pro cycling's Team Garmin of conditions near the start of the Tour of California this morning.

Update, 2:25 p.m.: Here’s the official statement from the tour people, complete with Levi Leipheimer’s statement to the crowd at the start line:

Due to extreme weather conditions and potentially unsafe roads, Stage 1 of the 2011 Amgen Tour of California was cancelled just before the riders, who were lined up at the start, were about to begin the race.

“We were monitoring weather conditions up until the predicted 1:15 p.m. PT start time, and we just couldn’t safely put the riders out on the course with the current forecast,” said Andrew Messick, president of AEG Sports. “We appreciate the support of all the fans that came out to the start line in South Lake Tahoe, and we hope they understand and respect our decision, but when the safety of riders and fans is involved, there is no leeway. We are looking forward to seeing everyone at the start tomorrow in Squaw Valley.”

As the race was being cancelled, three-time Amgen Tour of California champion Levi Leipheimer addressed the crowd from the sign-in stage and said:

“The riders discussed as a group and we just don’t feel comfortable riding knowing what can happen, especially in light of what happened last Monday. We still have a full week of racing ahead of us, so we want to make sure everyone is healthy. With the weather conditions the way they are, racing today is just not possible. On behalf of all the riders, we apologize and appreciate everyone’s support and understanding.”

The race will continue as planned tomorrow, Monday, May 16, beginning with a neutral start lap through Squaw Village at 10:15 a.m. PT and heading to the finish in Sacramento.

Update, 1:45 p.m.: Here’s something that’s suggestive of the the riders’ role in shutting down the stage today. Levi Leipheimer, leader of Team RadioShack, had this to say via Twitter:

We the riders are disappointed about not racing for the fans but we all agreed it was too risky in the ever changing weather.

And:

Thank you to AEG and Medalist [Tour organizers] for supporting this decision. We all hope the fans understand

Update, 1:30 p.m.: Well, the rotten weather finally proved stronger than the organizers’ determination to have a race today. The revised 1:15 p.m. start time came and went, rumors went whirling through the start area and Internets that many riders wanted no part of the Bicycles on Ice extravaganza that awaited them, and the stage was canceled. A commenter noted just before 1 p.m. that heavy snow was falling at the finish area at Northstar.

One other note about riders’ motivation: The start was to have been marked by a rolling tribute to Wouter Weylandt, the racer killed last week at the Giro d’Italia. That tragedy had to have weighed heavily on many of those who would have put their bodies on the line today.

Update: 1:10 p.m.: If you want to follow today’s snowy partial stage, here are a couple of links: Amgen Tour of California: The Shack Tour Tracker Cyclingnews.com: Live text updates Twitter: AmgenTourofCalif (official feed) Twitter: #atoc

Update 11:45 a.m.: The Tour of California organizers just announced that a 50-mile version of Stage 1 will roll out from the Stateline, Nevada, start line at 1:15 p.m. The route will head around the southern end of Lake Tahoe, turn north on Highway 89 to head north up the lake’s east side, climb to a Category 4 King of the Mountain summit above Emerald Bay, and finish with an uphill finish at the Northstar ski resort.

We are sitting comfortably in Berkeley, a good 180 miles away from the action, but we note that according to the National Weather Service reporting station at Lake Tahoe, the snow has never let up since it started last night. Current conditions: light snow, temperature of 30 degrees F., wind from the south at 10 mph, gusting to 22.

Here’s the revised course map: Stage 1, revised

And here’s the revised course log: Stage 1 log and timetable

Update, 9:45 a.m.: It snowed all night in Lake Tahoe, and now the organizers have decided to shorten the stage and delay the start for several hours to give the weather a chance to improve. If weather and road conditions are still bad at noon, the stage could be canceled outright. Here’s the latest Tour statement:

Due to severe and unsafe weather conditions in the Lake Tahoe area, the start of Stage 1 of the 2011 Amgen Tour of California has been delayed. If the weather improves, a shortened stage will be started at 1:15 p.m. PT. We will continue to monitor the weather conditions and state of the roads and make a final decision at noon PT, with the riders’ safety as our number one priority. The new route will continue to take the riders from South Lake Tahoe to Northstar up the west side of Lake Tahoe. The stage will be approximately 50 miles. There will be no changes to the timing or the finish line at Northstar. The Lifestyle Festival at the finish will still open at noon PT, with the Amgen Breakaway Mile also remaining on schedule for 2:30 p.m. PT. – Andrew Messick, President of AEG Sports, presenter of the Amgen Tour of California

The Tour of California organizers have just released a statement on how they’ll respond to the onset of potentially dangerous winter weather on the planned Stage 1 course around Lake Tahoe on Sunday:

The 2011 Amgen Tour of California is scheduled to kick off Sunday, May 15, in South Lake Tahoe at 10:30 a.m. PT. As everyone is aware, there is a storm front predicted to reach the area. Therefore race organizers, in conjunction with the commissaires, teams and public safety organizations, have developed a number of contingency plans with the safety of the riders and fans being the number one priority. The weather is constantly changing in the Sierras, and our team will be assessing weather conditions throughout the morning. A decision on any changes to the route and timing will be made at 9 a.m. PT tomorrow, and will ultimately be based on what is best and most safe for our riders and spectators. Details will be distributed on the official race website and via email.
– Andrew Messick, President of AEG Sports, presenter of the Amgen Tour of California

I’ll only note that as the clock strikes midnight, the latest weather reports show light snow at Lake Tahoe Airport and at Blue Canyon, on Interstate 80 at about 5,200 feet west of Donner Summit. The National Weather Service office in Reno notes that on May 15, 1984, the town of Truckee recorded 4 inches of snow. Winter can last a while in the high country.

Some other links on weather and race speculation:

National Weather Service: South Lake Tahoe forecast Cyclingnews: Contingencies in Place for Amgen Tour of California Weather San Jose Mercury News: Tour of California may have to change course for first day because of snowstorm Los Angeles Times: Snow, ice threaten start of Tour of California cycling race ESPN.com: Tour of California can’t get a break Sacramento Bee: Tour of California officials ponder options

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  • John

    It is snowing at Northstar – I am within 200 ft of the finish and the snow is coming down heavily enough to accumulate on the edges of the road. It has clouded over and the hour of sun we saw around 11am is gone.

  • Dan Brekke

    So, John–would you ride your bike in that weather? I have ridden in some rotten conditions, but not heavy snow and not bare ice.

  • John

    Here it wasn’t heavy enough to be an issue – the road was wet, and it would have been uncomfortable but not dangerous. I wouldn’t be going fast enough to be dangerous either! I understand from one of the ATOC staff, that it was worse closer to the lake. ATOC has been unlucky here today.

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Dan Brekke

Dan Brekke (Twitter: @danbrekke) has worked in media ever since Nixon's first term, when newspapers were still using hot type. He had moved on to online news by the time Bill Clinton met Monica Lewinsky. He's been at KQED since 2007, is an enthusiastic practitioner of radio and online journalism and will talk to you about absolutely anything. Reach Dan Brekke at dbrekke@kqed.org.

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