Organizers preparing for predicted snow
The Amgen Tour of California moved to the month of May last year in order to allow the race to visit the higher altitudes and some of the state's most scenic locations, but an unusual late snowfall predicted for the weekend could force the race into contingency plans for Sunday's opening stage in Lake Tahoe.
The National Weather Service gives a 90 percent chance of snow, with accumulations of one inch overnight Saturday and into Sunday, and a possible 1 to 3 inch accumulations more on race day.
Some predictions call for up to 5 inches of snow accumulation, but with low temperatures above freezing overnight, organisers were hopeful that the roads would be clear to hold the race as planned: a 191km clockwise circuit around the famous blue lake starting in South Lake Tahoe and ending in Northstar Resort.
"Safety is paramount," said Medalist Sports owner Jim Birrell. "Our concern is going to be what's on the road. If there is ice on the road, we will have a reactionary plan, but if it's just wet it will be all systems go.
"[Saturday] night our team is going to assemble, and we will be assessing the weather. Based on the forecast now, we don't see any accumulation beginning until 11 o'clock. We'll work with our local organising committees to identify the higher elevations where we might expect to see the majority of the accumulation, and more importantly where the ice is."
Unlike some states where roads are sprayed with brine or sprinkled with salt to help melt snow and ice, environmental concerns prevent the use of chemicals on the roads around Lake Tahoe, leaving plows as the only option for snow and ice removal.
Birrell said the race will be working with the departments of transportation of California and Nevada to help make decisions on how to proceed with Sunday's stage 1, and Monday's stage 2, which leaves Squaw Valley and descends from the Donner Pass on the way to Sacramento.
"[We will see] what procedures they can implement to either negate it or present us with options of a re-route, and all the variables we can pull together to make the right decision for the safety of the riders.
"The decision will ultimately be made Sunday morning, but Saturday night we will assemble and have the real-time data to make the decision."
The cities of South and North Lake Tahoe have invested months of effort and a good deal of money into hosting the Amgen Tour, but Carol Chaplin, the Executive Director of the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority, had a philosophical approach to the situation.
"No matter what the weather brings, it will be memorable," Chaplin said.
Birrell said the contingency planning is "a part of what we do". "This isn't an arena, this isn't a coliseum, it's a major professional event that takes place on public roadways and has variables that are out of our control. With the expertise and talent we have I'm certain we will make the right decision."
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