Stage 2 of the Tour of Britain was cancelled due to the high winds whipped up by hurricane Katia. Race Chief Executive Hugh Roberts made the announcement to the press only an hour before the stage was due to start from the town of Kendal in the Lake District of England. The decision to cancel the 85-mile stage was taken by Tour of Britain organisers, in conjunction with teams and riders, officials and police.
In a statement from the organisation, Race Director Mick Bennett said, "In my 30 years of organising cycling events, I have never once had to cancel a stage before it even started, so this is not a decision that has been taken lightly."
The police also thought it folly to hold the race on day when gusts of over 80mph were being recorded along the coast, as Met Office spokesman Dan Williams said, "Very strong winds are expected across today's race route along exposed areas on higher ground and along the coast. It is also possible that waves could overtop sea defences along the west coast around the Blackpool area. Although it will still be a windy day on Tuesday, we are not expecting the strength of those gusts to be as bad for the third stage tomorrow."
Despite the atrocious weather, large crowds had turned out in Kendal, and two, short, ceremonial laps around Kendal by the field of 94 riders were welcomed by the fans. Whether or not they actually needed a following convoy of team cars is debatable, but it did make it a bit more of a spectacle. The cancellation of the stage was also a disappointment for the riders, although most of them agreed that it would make little difference to the overall as it was pretty flat and would probably be contested in a sprint which would probably have been won by Mark Cavendish.
The race leader Mark Cavendish knew that it was not only a lost opportunity for a another stage win, but also a day's lost riding ahead of the world championships in Copenhagen. "It's a shame, you know. A shame for the organisers, a shame for the fans, a shame for the riders, but that's how it is. We've got to put up with it. It would have been a good stage for us with a bunch sprint into Blackpool, my home stage in the North West."
So, would it be a couple of hours on the turbo this afternoon, instead? "Yeah afraid so, you can't really go out training on the road in this weather."
On arrival at the finish on the promenade underneath Blackpool Tower, it was clear that the decision to cancel the stage was the right one, with waves cresting the sea defences and holiday makers holding on to their Kiss Me Quick hats for fear of them blowing away.
Despite the disappointment of the cancelled stage, the hero of the day was Mark Cavendish who travelled the route in the HTC team car and braved the winds on the finish line in Blackpool to greet the hardy fans. There was, however, another disruption on the way when the afternoon tea dance in the Blackpool Tower Ballroom had an unplanned break as Cavendish gave a brief speech in front of an impromptu podium and presented his leader's gold jersey to the Mayor of Blackpool.
The highly surreal moment became even more bizarre when Cavendish revealed, "I used to dance (ballroom) here 10 years ago, but then I found out I was better at cycling!"
Stage 3 of The Tour of Britain, The Stoke-on-Trent Stage, on Tuesday, September 13 will go ahead as planned, with the stage due to start from Trentham Gardens at 10:30 am local time.