Weather is always part of the conversation at bike races but, the upcoming snow storm that is predicted to hit on Sunday for stage 1 has captured everyone’s attention.
The current forecast from the National Weather Service calls for 90% chance of snow on Sunday, with new snow accumulations of 1 to 3 inches possible.
The race organization is monitoring the situation and will assemble on Saturday night to create their action plans.
“Based on the forecast now, we don’t see any accumulation beginning until 11 o’clock and we’ll work with our local organizing committees to identify those high elevations where we could expect to see the majority of the accumulation and more importantly where the ice is. Then working with the department of transportation in two stages, Nevada and California, they’ll be able to guide us in the decision making process, the severity and what procedures that can implement that either negate it or present us with the option of a re-route or all the variables that we can pull together to make the right decision for the safety of the riders.” explained Jim Birrell, Race Director of the 2011 Amgen Tour of California.
“Really our concern is going to be what’s on the road. If there’s ice on the road, then we’ll have a reactionary plan, if it’s wet, I think it will be all systems go to race. We’ve got the brightest and most experienced individuals on our team, and our partners with both the county and the state, to help render what will be the best decision based on the circumstances that we’ll be faced with tomorrow night.”
The team is looking at contingency plans where a lot of variables come into play. From shorter stage, to reverse directions to rumored prologue, all are options are looked at.
“We’ve got two wonderful host communities that have invested a lot in seeing the start and conclusion of this race story. Again, it’s going to be where the weather pattern is, and the effect that it’s going to have on the road. Currently, we have a large circuit and a half, we can look at everything, we can look at a start here and a finish at North Star, and if we have to reverse it and not hit the whole circuit, those are the things that we’re going to look at.”
Safety is paramount for Birrell. “ We’re fortunate to have a partnership with CalTrans and CHP, and resources within AEG to do everything in our power to provide the best chances for success on the road and to provide these athletes to perform under ideal conditions or even when conditions are bad but be able to inform them of the road dangers that may be out there in anyone of the races.”
Same for everyone. If the stage does go on as plan in the bad weather, the riders are ready for it.
“As far as the race go, we leave it to the race organizers, they have our safety in mind so whatever they decide about the race and the course or any changes, we trust that they have our safety in mind. It also depends how you look at it, how you approach it, everybody is under the same conditions, put on some warm clothes.” said Garmin-Cervelo’s Andrew Talansky who made his way to Tahoe last Monday with his teammates and had a preview of similar conditions.
“Everyone has to do the same thing, we’re younger we have less experience,” US National Road Champion Ben King (Radioshack) started but was interrupted when Taylor Phinney (BMC) quipped with a laugh “We’re young and stupid.”
King, smiled and continued, “We came up in the same sport, we race in all kinds of conditions so it’s the same level of motivation.”
“I’m from Montana, we’re used to the cold.” said Tejay van Garderen (HTC-HighRoad) with a laugh. “I think the peloton is usually pretty conscious in those kind of conditions. We’re all out there together, we’re all faced with the same conditions, none of us want to crash, none of us want to have anything bad happen. Usually, when there’s extreme conditions like that, the peloton has enough respect for everyone to just be a little bit easier.”
Three-time Amgen Tour of California champion Levi Leipheimer (Radioshack) agreed. “First and foremost the organizers have our back, they’re going to assess Sunday morning whether it’s possible or not. You talk about seeing epic weather stages in the Giro, in the Classics but when you have snow accumulating on the road, you don’t see that, that’s not possible unless you’re finishing uphill but going downhill, it’s impossible to navigate that, I don’t think you’ll see that on Sunday.”
It’s not the first time that the racing in California has been hit with bad weather. Remember that epic stage that Dominique Rollin, then with Toyota-United, solo’ed to the win in pouring cold rain? Or how about the stage down Highway 1 with sideways rain, wind, hail all mixed up together and repeated over and over again. The weather was so bad that the planes were grounded and only a few of us in the caravan witnesses the horrible conditions.
But, it will be the first time for snow. The decision will ultimately be made Sunday morning.