As was forecast, there was snowfall in the Ardennes on Sunday, and Liège-Bastogne-Liège had to be re-routed as a result.
As team cars made their way along the route out towards the feed zones, they encountered roads covered in a blanket of snow, with the snow continuing to fall amid the poor visibility.
At around 11:30am local time, an hour or so into the race, organisers took the decision to alter the route to avoid the worst of the snow. At kilometre 45, the riders were taken off the planned route and they joined it again at kilometre 75, just before the first climb of the day, the Côte de La Roche-en-Ardenne. The race headed south in a more direct manner, and the change took five kilometres off the total distance, meaning that the 2016 Liège-Bastogne-Liège was 248km long.
The change didn't have a significant impact on the complexion of the race, given that the riders were back on the planned course ahead of the first climb.
The snowfall at Liège has echoes of similar situations at Paris-Nice and Tirreno Adriatico last month, both of which had stages altered or cancelled. The new Extreme Weather Protocol was brought in this season to help decisions to be made in the best interests of riders when adverse conditions threaten. Under the Protocol's guidelines, the threat of extreme weather calls for a meeting between a rider representative and race officials to discuss possible courses of action.
However, no such meeting took place at Liège-Bastogne-Liège due to the fact that the the CPA (riders' association) representative for the race, Kristof Vandewalle, was ill and forced to stay at home. Vandewalle told Cyclingnews he received numerous calls from teams this morning saying they were confused about the situation, with snow having been predicted and the temperature at the start in the Place Saint Lambert just above freezing.
In his place, former pro Cristian Salvato, who works with the Italian riders' association, stepped up to take responsibility.
"We didn’t have a face-to-face meeting because I was only called in late as a replacement CPA representative as our delegate was ill. I was here initially to follow the race as a spectator," Salvato told Cyclingnews.
"Before the race we canvassed some of the riders and teams, and everybody knew by then that it was going to be a cold day. They knew there had been snow but it wasn’t sticking to the ground, and they felt the race was doable. The organisers applied the extreme weather protocol by altering the course because of the temperatures and because there was snow sticking to the ground in some parts of that area [between kilometres 45 and 75 – ed.] so it was dangerous for the riders."
Though the decision to modify the route came well into the race, Vandewalle insisted the race organisers were "well prepared".
"It made no sense to make the decision before the start," he said. "There was no thick layer of snow then - any decision had to be made during the race. It changes quickly out there.
"They were well prepared. The race organisers took it really seriously, they will not make any stupid decision - we can trust them."
Thank you for reading 5 articles in the past 30 days*
Join now for unlimited access
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read any 5 articles for free in each 30-day period, this automatically resets
After your trial you will be billed £4.99 $7.99 €5.99 per month, cancel anytime. Or sign up for one year for just £49 $79 €59
Join now for unlimited access
Try your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1