- Article published:
- May 16, 2011, 01:20
- Laura Weislo
Snow cancels stage 1, threatens stage 2
The organisers of the Amgen Tour of California thought the move to May would allow them to showcase some of the most spectacular scenery of the state, and few places are as photogenic as Lake Tahoe with its majestic peaks soaring above the 6200 foot high lake. However, no images of the peloton racing came from stage 1 as a late spring storm forced the cancellation of the first day of racing.
The call came at literally the last minute, as the lead vehicles rolled out from South Lake Tahoe, the voice came over the race radio to hold for an update on the race. A moment later, it was announced that the riders had decided not to race.
Race organiser AEG clarified at the press conference that the decision was made with the teams, riders and technical staff, with Medalist Sports head Jim Birrell declaring the stoppage after clearing it with AEG.
"As we said from the outset rider safety has and will continue to be our number one priority," said Birrell. "As we were getting into the window for starting the stage, we were getting information from our course director who had been out on the road and our assistant technical director who were in constant communication with CHP (the California Highway Patrol) and Caltrans (California Department of Transportation) based on the conditions.
"We had a lot of great intel’ coming from the field. Looking at the forecast it was our collective recommendation to come back to Andrew and present the idea of canceling the stage.
"I got the green light and full support from Andrew and his team, and in the end we did the right thing in the interest of rider safety and public safety - with the temperatures in the 28-30 (F) range and 12-14mph winds and a wind chill at 18 degrees - it's not the right environment for these professional athletes to put their lives on the line.
"We also have over a thousand people either at the finish or start line, and volunteers and fixed post officers out in these elements. You have to take that all into consideration when you make the decision.
"The decision was made and we made the right one."
President of AEG Sports, Andrew Messick told the media assembled at the press conference after the stage cancellation that the somewhat extreme weather conditions this year, should not have a bearing on the race visiting Lake Tahoe in the future.
"Our team and the athletes arrived here in the middle of the week and the weather was fantastic," he said. "We would consider Lake Tahoe again to host the race in the future."
The lack of a race spectacle was an obvious disappointment from the organising committees and fans of the Lake Tahoe region.
"From the perspective of local organising committee we were disappointed, we really wanted to see racing today," said the director of tourism Andy Chapman. "We understand that team and rider and spectator safety are paramount. We are certainly disappointed, but we are fully supportive of those decisions of Andrew and his team."
The forecast calls for continued snowfall on Monday, when the race is scheduled to depart Squaw Valley and crest the Donner Pass en route to Sacramento. Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for up-to-date information on the race schedule.
- Article published:
- May 16, 2011, 02:30
- Kirsten Frattini
Donner Pass closed due to winter weather conditions
AEG Sports President Andrew Messick announced that continued snow fall has forced race officials to develop several contingency plans in for the Amgen Tour of California second stage scheduled to start in Squaw Valley on Monday. Race officials will monitor the weather conditions through the night and announce any delays or course revisions at 8:00am PDT.
"Our goal is to make a decision by 8:00am, for the deployment of our fixed post officers and volunteers and rest of the team," said Medalist Sports Jim Birrell. "We will continue to do like we did today, monitor the conditions, and if weather changes we will have to act and react to the current environment."
Race organizers announced the three-hour delay to the start of stage one along with a shortened route due to snow storms, sub freezing temperatures and high winds. Team staff and several high-profile riders convened at the start line in South Lake Tahoe and expressed their concerns regarding the safety of the peloton. Organizers made the final decision to cancel the race all together.
The winter storm that lead to the cancellation of stage one continued to progress throughout the day and have now caused Donner Pass to close. The pass is located along Highway 80, a critical section of stage two and the only exit out of the High Sierra Mountains into the Central Valley.
"We have been monitoring the situation and we deployed the team when we decided to cancel the stage today, to the Donner Pass - that will be the critical choke point in our decision tomorrow," Birrell said.
Messick would not speculate on the alternative plans should the Donner Pass be unusable. However, he did say, "I would love to say that we spent a lot of time thinking about tomorrow but our energy has been focused on today."
"Our core group will be meeting to start discussing tomorrow," he added. "We have a number of scenarios that we have planned, so we have contingency plans and it is going to depend on temperatures, conditions of the roads and critically on the status of Donner Pass."
Messick was questioned on how much thought was put into having the Amgen Tour of California come through the Lake Tahoe region given the apparent unpredictability of the weather, and he replied, "The likelihood of really severe winter weather in the middle of May was... we thought it might rain, it might be really windy, it might be 40 degrees. But, we didn't contemplate that it would be snowing, windy and 20 degrees. Now we have a brand new worst case scenario."
Andy Chapman of North Lake Tahoe Visitor's Bureau and Director of Tourism commented on the winter weather stating that, "Statistically it is possible for snow any time of the year in Lake Tahoe. If you look at the number of days historically in May it's low. Yes, it has happens, but statistically it was very small."
- Article published:
- May 16, 2011, 04:10
- Cycling News
Belgian suffers fractured rib in Picardie crash
A crash that occurred on the second stage of the Tour de Picardie has brought a premature end to the race of sprinter Gert Steegmans (Quickstep).
The powerful Belgian was unable to start Sunday's third and final stage with x-rays revealing a fracture to his seventh left rib.
The crash brought a large portion of the peloton to a halt on Saturday, on the downhill run into Chateau-Thierry, around 15 kilometres from the stage finish. The incident also took out Christian Knees, CJ Sutton, Simon Gerrans and Edvald Boasson Hagen from Sky Procycling. Knees and Gerrans failed to make it to the start of stage 3.
"In a downhill stretch some riders fell on the left, creating a domino effect that also took down riders on the right side of the road," Steegmans explained.
"To avoid one of them I ended up off road, in the middle of a forest, and I couldn't avoid a tree. It could have been worse. Now I'll take it easy for three days and then I'll try to get back on a bike. Normally everything should work out in a few days."
Steegmans' participation in the Tour of Belgium, which beginning May 25, will depend on how his injury evolves clinically.
- Article published:
- May 16, 2011, 05:32
- Jen See
Disappointment and relief from peloton at Lake Tahoe
The decision to cancel today's stage of the Amgen Tour of California came suddenly with just under two minutes to go on the race clock. In a pattern typical of the high Sierras, the weather changed from minute to minute on Sunday morning, with moments of brilliant sunshine interrupted by wind-driven snow. The roads had dried at the start in South Lake Tahoe, but out on the course, especially at the higher elevations, snow consistently fell.
While there was strong feeling from some of the riders that the race should not go ahead in the unseasonal conditions, overall the competitors believed that the race organizers made the right choice to cancel the stage
Surprise and disappointment shifted to understanding, especially as first-hand reports of the road conditions began to trickle in. With near-white-out conditions in some sections along the road to North Lake Tahoe, it was tough going with four wheels, never mind two. Instead of racing, the teams headed to their hotels. Some riders hopped on the trainers to loosen their legs for tomorrow's stage, which weather permitting, will run as planned.
Cyclingnews spoke to several members of the peloton following the decision.
Ted King, Liquigas-Cannondale:
"Naturally, we're all disappointed that the weather dictated the way the stage unfolded. Or didn't, rather. But I'm pleased to see level-headedness prevailed over a dangerous freak show. Just driving from South to North Tahoe was wild. Sure, the roads were dry initially, but cars skidding off the road and accumulating 2 3, 4-plus inches... just doesn't make sense. We're professional athletes. We're brothers, fathers, and sons. We're family. We want to race. But let safety rule over insanity."
Ben Jacques-Maynes, Team Bissell:
"My kids are here, they wanted to see a bike race, they're making snow angels instead. From sitting in the hotel room, it went from sun to snowing sideways. I would have been much more upset if they'd pushed things through and then cancelled things halfway through in the middle of nowhere. When we drove the roads, I was happy to be in the bus. It was crazy out there.
"I thought I could have ridden my bike, but it's a different thing to race with a pack and the caravan and all that. The race is on the line, people leave their brains back in the bus. Road cycling is not an extreme sport, it's athletic and skilled. And if you're not able to show that athleticism and skill due to numb fingers, what's the point? From growing up here in California and snowboarding in all these mountains, I know what it can be like."
Roman Kilun, Kenda/5 Hour Energy:
"It was kind of stressful all day, not knowing. It was almost more stressful than racing. Once we found out we were racing, we got all excited, got in our kits. Like yeah, we're going to race. At that moment, we were really frustrated. It was a cool race and we really wanted to do it. We just started riding toward the east side, it was nice, but once we got to the summit of the first climb, it was snowing. We could definitely have ridden it, on the east side, but riding is different than racing.
"For the domestic teams, it's the biggest race of the year of us. So it's disappointing. Now we have only seven days instead of eight. We thought we had a good chance with this stage, because it wasn't necessarily for the climbers or for the sprinters. There are so many people who work behind the scenes on this race, I feel really bad for them. There just wasn't any good way to go about it. For tomorrow, I wish they'd just make an announcement tonight saying we'll start in Nevada City or something. It's frustrating us riders not knowing."
Jeff Louder, BMC Racing Team:
"It is disappointing considering what could have been. I think it was the right choice. You have to race within reason. If it has been raining and 40 degrees, we would have raced. I really liked the course; I wish we could have raced for the spectators.
"I was surprised. I thought we were going to race. They had announced that there was two minutes to go to the start. Then, they put the AEG guy on the microphone and he said no race, we're not going to race. I honestly believe it was his call, everyone can have an opinion, but it's his decision. I think it was the right one. It would have been nice to know in advance but it was hard to know. I think everyone wanted the race to happen. Bikes have a very small contact point; they don't really work well in snow and ice. It'll still be a great race, it starts tomorrow."
Greg Henderson, Sky Procycling:
"For sure we made the correct decision. It can change so much up here so quickly. And the underlying fact is that it will still be an exciting race, but seven days long. Sorry, the fans didn't get to see a spectacle but I know the majority of them totally understand. We are not cruising around on mountain bikes. We are ripping around and there is a descent that we hit 100kph in training. Imagine 160-odd cyclists ripping down there in the snow. Scary stuff."
Brent Bookwalter, BMC Racing Team:
"I'm 100 per cent behind it. I definitely have an empty feeling in my stomach that we didn't race. We've been here riding all week, looking at the profile, imagining the beautiful race they had planned for us. It's one thing to go out and ride, but when you put 200 of the best, most determined cyclists in the world on the road with everything on the line... It's a group of strong-willed individuals. Seeing the pictures afterwards, come on guys, you couldn't have made this decision sooner? But seeing the fans who showed up, I think it was good to go to the start."
Meantime, many riders took to Twitter -
Christian Vande Velde, Garmin-Cervélo:
"I feel like Bode Miller. In the motor home, at the bottom of the ski slope, drinking coffee and watching it snow full gas."
Ben Day, Kenda/5 Hour Energy:
"Back at hotel now. It's a shame that the stage was cancelled as Tahoe is beautiful, but we confirmed it was too dangerous by riding 30 minutes."
Matt Goss, HTC-Highroad:
"We are having trouble doing the race course in the cars! Wise decision was made to cancel today."
Taylor Phinney, BMC Racing Team:
"Today has been a "unique" day... to say the least. Wonder what tonight has in store for us! And tomorrow?? Donner Pass anyone? Ha ha."
Ben King, Team RadioShack:
"Sorry everyone. It was the right call. It's a shame, but we have a long week ahead. Gonna be a huge show."
- Article published:
- May 16, 2011, 06:32
- Cycling News
Gerrans, Knees non-starters after previous day’s crashes
Simon Gerrans and Christian Knees were non-starters on stage three of the Tour de Picardie after crashing hard in stage two, and are both now in recovery-mode in a battle to be 100 per cent before the Bayern Rundfahrt later this month. Sky Procycling sports director Steven de Jongh however played down the severity of the crash when interviewed at the end of stage three.
"[After yesterday] they are pretty battered and bruised, but at the moment they should both be OK to ride at Bayern Rundfahrt at the end of the month," he explained.
Knees and Gerrans were caught in the same crash that brought down Quickstep rider Gert Steegmans who was diagnosed overnight with a broken rib.
Their abandonments also meant Sky was forced to ride the final stage with a bare-bones team of only four riders. However, the team was still able to take some positives from what was a challenging day with Edvald Boasson Hagen taking sixth in the final sprint. The Norwegian has just recovered from a rib injury of his own and De Jongh was encouraged by the result considering the circumstances.
"We were always going to be up against it today, but we still tried to be as competitive as possible," said De Jongh.
"When it did come back together Flecha and CJ [Sutton] gave Edvald a really good lead out."
"Unfortunately he just got a little misplaced at the end there, but he was really happy with the way the guys had worked for him, and was glad to be back in the mix after his bad crash at Scheldeprijs. It will definitely give him confidence for the future."
The Bayern Rundfahrt begins on the 25th of May.
- Article published:
- May 16, 2011, 08:32
- Kirsten Frattini
Australian aims for Tour de France start
After a five-week break, Matt Goss (HTC-Highroad) is on the hunt for another victory in one of the three possible sprint stages at the Amgen Tour of California.
"I think stage two will be a definite bunch sprint, as long as the race is held together by the sprint teams, that will happen," Goss told Cyclingnews.
Weather permitting, there are three predicted sprint opportunities on stage two's finishing city of Sacramento, stage five into Paso Robles and stage eight into Thousand Oaks.
Goss took a small break from racing following a series of prestigious victories during the early season that included Cancer Council Classic, Santos Tour Down Under stage one, Tour of Oman stage two, Paris-Nice stage three and Milan-San Remo.
"Training has been going well but I haven't raced for nearly five weeks," Goss said. "It is a bit of an uncertainty but training has been going well and my form is coming up OK and so this should be a good race for me."
The Amgen Tour of California attracted a top notch sprint line up that includes current UCI World Road Champion Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervelo), Juan Jose Haedo (Saxo Bank), Greg Henderson and Ben Swift (Sky ProCycling) among others.
"There is such a high quality of sprinters here, every race we go to now there are a high quality of sprinters," Goss said. "There isn't really one guy that you can say you have to ride next to because there is a list of maybe six riders like that here. We just have to focus on our team doing what they do best and then I have to worry about finishing it off for them."
Goss is focused on the second half of his season, which includes lining up at the Tour de France in July and ending the season with a strong performance at the UCI World Championships held in September in Copenhagen, Denmark.
"I've had the perfect start to my season so it is easier to come into the next part with confidence and feeling really good," Goss said. "My goals are to go to the Tour de France and coming off of a good early season puts me in the mindset to focus and reset my new goals. I'll use the next stage races to build up my form, I'm not in 100 per cent for right now, but I can build up over the next two months to where I was. I can hopefully be at the Tour de France and be really good there."
"Worlds will be another big goal," he added. "It is a flat course and that is an opportunity at the World Championships that we [sprinters] don't get very often. It is going to be a difficult year for me and a really long year. I will have to time the form that I have really well."
- Article published:
- May 16, 2011, 09:46
- Cycling News
Geox-TMC rider hurt kneecap in stage three crash
Fabio Duarte of Geox-TMC had to abandon the Giro d'Italia on Saturday with a knee injury. The Colombian injured his right kneecap in a crash on the third stage.
“I slid out on a downhill and took a hit to my right knee that didn’t seem to have major consequences,” he said in a team press release. “It was after the stage in Orvieto, where I took second place, that the pain to my kneecap started getting worse. Friday, on the climb at Montevergine I tried taking it easy. I wanted to hang in there until Monday to try and make the most out of the rest day, but unfortunately today after only a few kilometres I realised I was not in a position to continue.
“After consulting with the team’s technical staff I decided to pull out. I’m really disappointed that I have to leave the race like this,” Duarte continued. “This was my first Giro and it meant a lot to me to be able to do my best, to be able to help Menchov and Sastre, especially on the climbs.”
Directeur Sportif Daniele Nardello was sorry to see the 24-year-old leave the race. “In this first week at the Giro Duarte looked like he was in great shape. Particularly on the major climbs in this Giro he could have had an important role within the team.”
But there was no choice. “To go on in these conditions however would be counterproductive to the rider’s health. Right now our priority is to understand the nature of the problem and try to resolve it as best we can.”
- Article published:
- May 16, 2011, 10:45
- Cycling News
First race back for World Champion since Paris-Roubaix
World road champion Thor Hushovd is looking for his fist season win in the Amgen Tour of California this week. It is his first race since Paris-Roubaix, five weeks ago, and the Garmin-Cervelo rider is a little uncertain of how things will go.
“I am not sure of my form,” he told tv2sporten.no. “I had a long quiet period and let down a little. So I trained to build myself up again. When you get a little tense from training and don't have the speed in your legs, then you need to race. But I hope it comes after a couple of days.”
The Norwegian is also suffering from the time difference. “I didn't get to the US until Friday night, so I have a bit of a jet lag and the body is tired. But it is probably okay. "
Hushovd is not satisfied with his season so far. “Results-wise it has been disappointing. I have been in good form and was often at the front in races, but somehow have not gotten any results. It is caused by a combination of luck and concentration, and poor tactical choices along the way.
“I will take this opportunity here in California to win a stage.”
Like the other sprinters, Hushovd is targeting the second and eighth stages, particularly the latter.“The last day may be good for me. That's probably where I have the greatest chance of winning, so I will go for it."
He sees his main competition in HTC-Highroad's Matthew Goss, “always a man to be reckoned with. He won Milan-San Remo this year, and he is dangerous. In addition, Peter Sagan has enough to do well.”