For the second time in three years promoters and officials had to cancel the Cannon Falls Road Race stage of the Nature Valley Grand Prix because of extreme weather conditions.
Heavy rain and lightning strikes caused race director Dave LaPorte and head official Dot Abbott to make the difficult call just minutes before the men's race was set to start. They had originally proposed running a short race on the 1.9-mile closing circuit in downtown Cannon Falls, but increasingly bad weather and resistance from the men's pro team directors led to the decision to call the whole thing off.
“We've had a number of discussions with the police and the promoters,” chief official Dot Abbott told team directors who had gathered under a tent near the start line. “Taking into consideration some of the input you guys gave us as well, looking at the weather reports and the resources, we have obviously looked at the option of running this as a circuit race, but the organizer has come to the conclusion that it is not in the interest of the riders or the race to hold this stage. It's very unfortunate that we have to do that, but we do think it's in the best interest of the race.”
Race director Dave LaPorte said the original road race course was in an exposed rural area that would have made it impossible to protect riders if the extreme weather put them in harm's way.
“The plan was to come here and do a road race,” he said. “But the problem with doing a road race here is that there is absolutely no cover out on the course, so if we had a tornado come in or torrential rain there would be no way to stop the race out in the country and protect the riders. We started to look at maybe turning it into a circuit race so we could have a show, but trying to do it on the fly was tough. We probably could have done it, but it was likely to turn into a mess.”
Organizers also canceled the Cannon Falls stage in 2010 after tornadoes began to touch down just 20 km from the course. The men were already racing and had to be turned around and sent back their team cars in Cannon Falls.
Most of the pro team directors applauded the decision to scrap the entire stage again this year rather than trying to put together a circuit race at the last minute. Kenda/5-Hour Energy team director Frankie Andreu said the stage race already has plenty of criteriums so his team was looking forward to the road race, but the conditions took away that option.
“I understand the circumstances,” he said. “And the weather is only going to get worse, so I think it's the correct decision that they're making for the safety of the riders.”
Andreu said having the riders compete in a circuit race would have only been for show, and putting it together at the last minute under severe conditions was just too much to ask.
“Doing the circuit in the pouring rain and lightning, not having any follow cars so if somebody crashes they have to chase, it's just a hodgepodge to have the riders ride around,” he said. “This is an NRC race and they're above that. I wish they would have consulted with some of the pro teams; I think that would have been the right thing to do. But they did it on their own and I think in the end they did the right thing.”
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Growing up in Missoula, Montana, Pat competed in his first bike race in 1985 at Flathead Lake. He studied English and journalism at the University of Oregon and has covered North American cycling extensively since 2009, as well as racing and teams in Europe and South America. Pat currently lives in the US outside of Portland, Oregon, with his imaginary dog Rusty.
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