Rund um Köln celebrated two things today: it was the 100th year of the race which was first held in September of 1908, and it was the first time that it had to be canceled due to snow. While the two world wars have already led to cancellations in the past, this was the first weather-related one. The race had the bad luck that it is held on Easter Monday, which is earlier this year than usual and moved the race from its normal April date up into March.
The race was delayed s hortly before the peloton was due to take off at 10:45 from the BayArena football stadium in Leverkusen this morning. The teams were to meet again at noon with the possibility of a 12:15 start on a modified 150-kilometre course which would have left out most of the hills. However, Altig decided to cancel altogether after going out on the course for a final check of the conditions around noon to find snow showers still falling and road covered in snow and ice.
Initially, the organisers had decided to celebrate the anniversary by making the race a little harder than in previous years. For the 100th edition on Easter Monday, 2008, the riders were to face a hilly parcours of 205 kilometres, with the Bensberg climb coming approximately 23 kilometres from the finish.
But what the organisers hadn't planned for was the weather. After an extremely mild winter, snow has finally arrived in Germany, making for a white Easter and tying up traffic over the weekend. The icy conditions which caused so many accidents on the famed 'Autobahn' over the weekend, has now caught up with the cyclists as well.
The last-minute cancellation of Alessandro Petacchi (Milram) due to illness meant the Italian did not travel in vain, meaning his team-mate Erik Zabel, who has won the race twice, in 1996 and 2004, would have been the lone team leader for the squad.
Defending champion Juan José Haedo (Team CSC) also didn't make it to the start, but the cancellation left Haedo's team-mate Jens Voigt without the possibility of his trademark breakaway on home soil. The riders did not even make it to the start, staying in the warmth of their hotels until the cancellation was officially announced around 12:30.
The unusually late winter storm has been affecting races all across northern Europe. Snow fell on the racers in the Ronde van het Groene Hart yesterday, and with Belgium also receiving some snowfall last night, the start of the Dwars van Vlaanderen on Wednesday has become uncertain.