The Amgen Tour of California got underway a day late and almost 100km short with a weather-altered start for stage two. After the first stage at Lake Tahoe was cancelled due to unexpected winter weather, the start of the second day was also impacted by the rare May storm, and moved down from the ski resort at Squaw Valley to last year's start town of Nevada City.
Race organiser AEG made the call after a significant snowfall coated the roads on Saturday, making the planned traverse of the 2134m high Donner’s Pass impracticable.
The change dropped the overall distance from 214.4km to 120km for the day, and eliminated the sole mountain sprint and the two planned intermediate sprint bonuses, but the 1200m drop in elevation meant the conditions were significantly improved for the race.
"We started looking at alternatives to the Squaw Valley start late yesterday afternoon. As we started moving our finish crews to Sacramento, we were notified that Donner's Pass was on chain control," said AEG's Andrew Messick, indicating that cars were required to use chains on their tyres for traction because of the snowy conditions.
"We had some delays getting the crews to Sacramento and that is when we decided that we had to seriously contemplate options that Donner's Pass would remain closed.
"We put the call into Nevada City shortly after midnight. It is a place we know well and a place that historically has a deep passion for cycling. They promised us to be ready by six, and sure enough, when we arrived at six, the roads were blocked and volunteers were in place. I don't want to know what they had to do to be prepared for us today."
The morning ran smoothly thanks to the work of Nevada City and its organising committee head and Vice Mayor, Duane Strawser, who were tasked with making the change from hosting a mid-race intermediate sprint to holding the stage start.
Flag in hand, marshalling an intersection leading to team parking before the start, Strawser seemed quite happy with how things had turned out.
"This was actually kind of a pleasure, because this is just six-hours notice and you just kind of make it happen, it wasn't six months of planning like we had last year.
"Basically it was calling our police department and public works and once they were notified, it just happened. I came down at two in the morning and moved the barricades on my own and blocked off downtown so cars wouldn't park there until the appropriate departments could come and shut it down."
Strawser said they had to move a few cars, but were able to find most of the owners and have them move the vehicles without problems, and indeed as the race pulled in with its team cars, buses, race caravan, motorcycles and marshall vans there was parking set up and the race went off without a hitch.
Thousands of fans lined the streets well before the riders got underway in a huge turnout for a tiny town of only 3000 residents.
"I think people know about the city from the Nevada City Classic, 51-years-old and one of the oldest criteriums in the country - people have been up here over and over. We put word out fast and furious to get the word out and welcome people up here."
Strawser's passion for the sport dates back to a race career in the 1980s, and his love for Nevada City comes from the 50-year-old race which he competed in several times.
He liked the town so much he decided to move here, and after opening up the Tour of Nevada City Bicycle Shop with his wife, they took over running the Nevada City Classic. From there, hosting the Amgen Tour of California was a natural extension.
"I landed on the city council a few years ago, and it just fit in to make these events happen for the betterment of the town."
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