Clovis News

Snow cancels 1st day of Tour of California race

Just a few minutes before the scheduled start, with snow, wind and sub-freezing temperatures settling in around Lake Tahoe early Sunday afternoon, race officials and riders decided conditions were too dangerous for the Amgen Tour of California's first stage.

The original plan called for a 118.7-mile stage from South Lake Tahoe to Northstar-at-Tahoe Resort. Race officials shortened the route Sunday morning to a 49.2 mile-ride from start to finish, but as the 1:15 p.m. start approached, safety concerns prevailed.

"There was definitely a concern with the safety of the course and the really fast descent," BMC Racing Team's George Hincapie said, referring to a downhill stretch from 7,179-foot Brockway Summit on Highway 267 near the end of the race.

"If it's icy, you don't have control of your bike. At the end of the day, they just prioritized safety.

"It's really unfortunate for the fans. The way the sport is going, I think it's important that everyone agrees on the final decision and supports the organization."

The cancellation was the first in the race's six-year history.

Cycling still is reeling from the death last Monday of Belgian rider Wouter Weylandt, who died after crashing on a descent in the third stage of the Giro d'Italia.

Race director Jim Birrell said six race officials on motorcycles crashed along the west shore of Lake Tahoe before the race, but there were no serious injuries.

Snow accompanied a drive along the course early Sunday afternoon. A handful of fans had parked cars along Highway 89 on the west side of Lake Tahoe. Others gathered in Tahoe City and Kings Beach, some along the climb up Highway 267 to Brockway Summit.

All they saw, though, were cars heading to the finish.

"We were monitoring weather conditions up until the predicted 1:15 p.m. start time, and we just couldn't safely put riders out on the course with the current forecast," said Andrew Messick, president of AEG Sports, which owns and operates the race.

Today's second stage calls for a 133.2-mile ride from Squaw Valley to Sacramento starting at 10:15 a.m., with the finish expected around 3:30 p.m. at the state Capitol.

Race officials said any possible changes for today wouldn't be finalized until 8 a.m.