Tour of California, Stage 2: Finally, a Race

Tour of California Stage 2. Click for larger image.

Update: 4 p.m.: The race finally got under way in Nevada City, in the Sierra Nevada foothills. The abbreviated 76-mile race ended with a sprint finish at the State Capitol in Sacramento. The winner: Ben Swift of Team Sky. Tomorrow’s adventure: 122 miles from Auburn to Modesto. The weather forecast: Occasional rain showers and a stiff southerly breeze–yes, a headwind.

Update, 7:40 a.m.: Here’s KQED’s story on the Stage 1 cancellation on this morning’s “The California Report: Tour of California’s First Stage Snowed Out. (And yes, we’re updating it to reflect today’s shorter stage.)

Update, 6:50 a.m.: The winter weather in the Sierra has prompted Tour officials to cut today’s stage in half, moving it from Squaw Valley all the way down to Nevada City. That reduces the stage from 133 miles to 61 miles, and moves the start back from 10:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. Here’s the lemonade-from-lemons announcement from Andrew Messick, head of AEG Sports, the lead Tour organizer:

“Nevada City did an outstanding job hosting the first stage of the 2010 race and we know that the riders and fans will appreciate the return. We owe a debt of gratitude to Andy Chapman, Carol Chaplin and everyone in Squaw Valley, who worked tirelessly to create what would have been an exceptional Stage 2 start and hope that we will have an opportunity to bring the Amgen Tour of California to the city in a future year.”

Earlier: The plan for the second stage–is it still second if there was no first stage?–is to ride from the Squaw Valley ski resort down to the town of Truckee, ride along the north shore of Donner Lake, then climb up to Donner Pass on old U.S. 40. It’s a gorgeous route and would be ideal if you didn’t have to think about traffic or the weather.

The racers won’t have to sweat the traffic–the road will be closed. Weather? That’s another matter. Overnight temperatures in the area will be in the high teens, meaning Sunday’s wet roads may be icy in the morning. After the summit, a little above 7,200 feet above sea level, the riders will start a long, long descent to Sacramento (altitude 25 feet above sea level). They’ll crest the pass after working up a nice little sweat, only to be faced with a long, fast, cold, and possibly slippery descent. (Remember, they’re paid to do this; we’re not.)

The question naturally occurs after Sunday’s Stage One cancellation: Will the race really happen as planned?

The answer just past midnight Monday is that the Tour organizers are keeping all options open, but nothing will be certain until much closer to the scheduled 10:15 a.m. start. Here are a couple quotes from the “post-stage” press conference Sunday that make that point:

Andrew Messick, head of AEG Sports, one of the outfits putting on the race:

“Honestly, our focus has been on today. Tomorrow we have a number of contingency plans if we again encounter drastic weather conditions. It is likely going to depend on the status of Donner Pass. We have our team up there right now assessing the situation.”

Jim Birrell, race director:

“We have our team focusing on Donner Pass, and that will be critical for making a decision tomorrow. It will be our goal to make a decision by 8 a.m. tomorrow. Our team will contemplate the alternative and then proceed with the option that is best for our riders. Right now we are moving forward with tomorrow as planned, and we will have to react to the weather as it unfolds.”

Links Cyclingnews.com: Amgen Tour of California still under snow watch San Francisco Chronicle: Winter in May will stick around another day San Jose Mercury: Tour of California officials hope for better weather Monday

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Dan Brekke

Dan Brekke 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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