TRUCKEE, Calif. (CBS13/AP) – The start of the Tour of California was wiped out Sunday because of snow, forcing organizers to cut the event from eight to seven stages.
Before calling off the start, organizers delayed the stage by 2 hours, 45 minutes and shortened the scheduled 118.7-mile road race from South Lake Tahoe to Northstar at Tahoe Resort to 49.2 miles.
When the weather cleared a bit, the 144 riders were signed in at the start and about to compete under a light snowfall, a temperature of 35 degrees and 12 mph wind, but organizers called it off less than a minute before the start. Originally set for 763.8 miles, the race has been cut to 645.1 miles.
“We were monitoring weather conditions up until the predicted 1:15 p.m. 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 — the race owner. “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.”
Before the start was wiped out, there was a moment of silence for Wouter Weylandt, the Belgium rider killed last Monday in the third stage of the Tour of Italy.
“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,” three-time winner Levi Leipheimer said.
“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.”
George Hincapie, a former stage winner, agreed with Leipheimer.
“There was definitely a concern with the safety of the course and the really fast descent,” Hincapie said. “If it’s icy, you don’t have control of your bike. And the end of the day, they just prioritized safety.”
The second stage of the race is scheduled to begin at 10:15 a.m. at Squaw Valley resort, with riders racing 133 miles to the Capitol in Sacramento sometime between 3:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)