Fifteen miles into the Cannon Falls Road Race, with the skies darkening overhead the men’s peloton, stage 3 of the Nature Valley Grand Prix was canceled. The cause was simply mother nature, or more precisely an advisory from the National Weather Service of strong winds, heavy rain and hail and a tornado warning.
After a quick conversation with race officials, chief referee Bonnie Walker made the call. The decision, including the location of a safe turnaround, was quickly relayed to all team cars but the riders still had to be informed. With no race radios, the riders had to be told verbally.
“A moto official came rolling through telling everyone, that there was a tornado warning and we were stopping the race. What are you going to do?” laughed overall race leader Scott Zwizanski (Kelly Benefit Strategies). “You never know and if there is a warning, it’s better safe and sorry. There could have kept racing us and what happens if there is a tornado?”
Once the call to turn around was made, the officials debated about still holding a shortened stage, with the 15 miles back to Cannon Falls and the finishing circuits. A possibility that Jonas Carney, DS Kelly Benefit Strategies did not agree with. “Other directors agreed with me.” said Carney. “If you turn around because of the weather, then you shouldn’t be racing in that weather.”
Soon thereafter, information was relayed that the finish area was pulled down and the stage was then officially canceled. Riders made their way back to the start/finish area, some jumping in team cars, some jumping in team vans that drove up and some just riding back.
Prior to the call being made in the men’s race, the women’s stage has already been canceled before it had even started. Starting 30 minutes after the men at the same start/finish location, call ups were done and the women were lined ready to race when the race was called.
Tornadoes and Volcanoes. “I think it was a big letdown for everybody, with the wind everyone was expecting a big fight out there. And when you don’t get to race, it’s a a huge letdown especially when you’re already raced for forty minutes but it’s the same feeling that we had when we were trying to get to France and there was a volcano and we missed the race because of that. What are you going to do?” said Zwizanski.
Obviously the riders were disappointed with the decision as everyone expected hard racing in crosswinds.
“We had to go pretty hard a couple of times already. No one was really exactly sure where the crosswinds would happen so there was a couple of times where things got going pretty fast, when people weren’t sure if there was going to be a big crosswind after a turn.” said Zwizanski. “So we got some intensity already I think we rode for 45 minutes before they stopped us.”
Canceling a stage due to inclement weather is a rare occurrence. “Only at Nature Valley” laughed Carney when I asked him if he had had many races cancelled during his career.
Yep, it’s not the first time that weather has come into play at this race. Back in 2005, the women’s stage 4, the Red Wing Road Race, was neutralized for 20 minutes due to lightning and hail. The women had to take shelter in a barn.
And then in 2008, heavy rains canceled the opening stage. The men’s race was called while it was in progress but the women’s race was neutralized after it had completed in miserable weather.
One happy outcome of the decision was that riders were able to watch match 7 of the NBA finals between the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers.
“I’m sure there are some guys that are happy, Jesse [Anthony] is a Boston guy he’s happy he gets to watch it.” laughed Zwizanski. “Eric our mechanic is a big Boston fan so he’s stoked.”
No changes in GC. Zwizanski and Alison Starnes (TIBCO/To The Top) lead going into stage 4, the Uptown Minneapolis Criterium on Friday evening. The course has teams race past Calhoun Square on a .88 Kilometer course that comprises six tight corners and a furious race to the finish line. The women start at 6:15 pm CST for 30 laps and the men at 7:45 pm for 40 laps. And lots of time bonuses again.