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."