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 -
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."
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."