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The opening stage of the 2011 Amgen Tour of California will be the most challenging first stage to date
Poor conditions leave organisers no choice
Stage 1 of the Amgen Tour of California was officially cancelled due to severe weather conditions at the start in South Lake Tahoe. The stage had already been pushed back by several hours due to heavy snow fall and driving winds as organisers fought to save the day's action.
The stage had been shorted from 191km to roughly 80km, with several hours delay, and the stage pushed back to 1:15 pm PDT in South Lake Tahoe. Organisers made the decision based on the safety of the riders after overnight snowfall combined with freezing temperatures made for dangerous race conditions.
“We were monitoring weather conditions up until the predicted 1:15 p.m. PT start time, and we just couldn’t safely put the riders out on the course with the current forecast,” said Andrew Messick, president of AEG Sports. “We appreciate the support of all the fans that came out to the start line in South Lake Tahoe, and we hope they understand and respect our decision, but when the safety of riders and fans is involved, there is no leeway. We are looking forward to seeing everyone at the start tomorrow in Squaw Valley.”
As the race was being cancelled, three-time champion Levi Leipheimer addressed the crowd from the sign-in stage and said:
“The riders discussed as a group and we just don’t feel comfortable riding knowing what can happen, especially in light of what happened last Monday. We still have a full week of racing ahead of us, so we want to make sure everyone is healthy. With the weather conditions the way they are, racing today is just not possible. On behalf of all the riders, we apologize and appreciate everyone’s support and understanding.”
Lars Boom (Rabobank) spoke to Cyclingnews at the start, just before the stage was cancelled.
"It was sunny when we were signing in and now there is another squall moving in and it's cloudy and snowy right now. With what just happened in the Giro d'Italia, we're wearing black wristbands, it might be ok now, but you don't know what's going to happen 10 minutes down the road. I will stay with the team and follow their decision."
Once the stage had been cancelled teams began leaving, former US road champion, George Hincapie told reporters that the correct decision had been made.
"There was definite concern for safety on the course. There is a really fast descent it could be a bit dicey. At the end of the day we had to prioritize safety. The way this sport's going, I think it's important that everybody agrees on final decisions, and we support the organisation and supports the teams. We need to race again tomorrow.”
"At the end of the day it’s the organizers that makes the final decision, but there was a lot of back and forth about neutralising the GC or neutralising the whole stage, they just decided the safest decision was to not do it at all and we have to respect that."
Cyclingnews recorded the following video a few hours before the start in Tahoe: