Amgen Tour of California: Officials ready for the possibility of winter weather in Tahoe
Tahoe Daily Tribune
TAHOE/TRUCKEE, Calif. – There is no worse feeling for cyclists than when they feel that lurching sensation of their front tire slipping, twisting, sliding beneath them. It’s an emotion that happens in milliseconds, the cyclist knowing deeply and instantly his or her body will be at the point where speed and asphalt mix.
Rain and flat tires are wonderful instigators for the front-tire crash, but there is no better cause for injury than ice and snow. It’s a simple sobering truth that has sent Amgen Tour of California race organizers into preparation mode for the May 15 and 16 opening stages in Lake Tahoe.
Chuck Hodge, race director of Medalist Sports – a sports management company charged with technical management of the tour – said in an unlikely bout of weather, there are a few options available to organizers, including shortening a stage route, rerouting the stage, delaying it for improved conditions or – at the most extreme – a stage cancellation.
“In the case of a course issue, the race organization has plans in place to consult with public safety officials to develop options that provide for the safety of the athletes and public,” Hodge said.
Though snow in May might seem improbable to some, Lake Tahoe’s climate averages tell a different story.
According The Weather Channel, in May the Lake Tahoe Region has an average high of 61 degrees and an average low of 32; however, Tahoe has been known to plunge into icy temps, with record lows around 7 degrees.
In the past, Hodge said he has attended and been a part of races where things were adjusted due to weather, one being stage 4 of the 2009 Amgen Tour of California when riders were scheduled to pass through the Sierra before finishing in Clovis, Calif.
Though the original route was used, Hodge said weather reports required alternate routes to be mapped.
“On a side note for you, hopefully we don’t have this (at lake Tahoe),” Hodge said.
Tougher than most
It is unlikely officials would host a tour in blizzard conditions, but it’s also not unheard of.
In the 1988 Tour of Italy, American cyclist Andy Hampsten, racing for Team 7-Eleven, rode through one of the harshest storms recorded in cycling history.
It was day 14 of the Italian tour – dubbed by cyclists as a grand tour because of its three-week length and prestige – and Hampsten was hit by a massive snowstorm on the 8,600-foot Gavia Pass.
Wearing Neoprene gloves, a wool hat and a pair of yellow Oakley snow goggles Hampsten road alongside Dutch rider Erik Breukink in near white out conditions.
While Breukink would go on to win the stage, Hampsten placed second and catapulted himself into the tour’s leader jersey – awarded to the rider with the overall fastest time for all stages combined. He would go onto win the race, becoming the first American ever to win the Tour of Italy.
In an interview with BikeRadar.com in October 2009, Hampsten described the blizzard as the harshest conditions he’s ever ridden in.
“I’d tell you what that was like if I could.” Hampsten said in the interview. “Think of freshman finals week, you didn’t study, you tripped and fell into an ice bath on your way into the class room, naked. After mourning your cat dying that morning. You get the idea.”
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After a period of dry, warm weather, winter returns this week to Lake Tahoe.