A snowman holds a sign along the race route on Highway 89 after stage one of the 2011 Amgen Tour of California from South Lake Tahoe to North Lake Tahoe was cancelled
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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.
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