Amgen cancels Tour's first stage due to weather

May 15, 2011 

Mark and Jody Nichols of Reno pause for some picture-taking in front of an outsized artistic bike in front of Harrah's Lake Tahoe on Saturday. Stage 1 of the Tour of California begins at South Lake Tahoe today, makes 1 1/2 loops around Lake Tahoe and finishes at Northstar-at-Tahoe Resort.

RANDY PENCH — rpench@sacbee.com

Officials for the Amgen Tour of California canceled today's opening stage amid assessments by riders in the professional cycling event that the cold and snowy conditions at Lake Tahoe were unsafe.

Stage 1 of the eight-stage race earlier today was cut from 118.7 miles to 50 miles and the start time delayed by about three hours as officials hoped for a break in the wintry weather.

Riders at the race's starting line in South Lake Tahoe headed back to their hotels after officials called off the event, which was a blow to the communities in the area looking for revenue from fans coming up to watch the race as well as good publicity from anticipated scenes showcasing the region's beauty and recreational opportunities.

When it was obvious that weather would not cooperate early in the day, the first stage, originally scheduled for 118.7 miles and a 10:30 a.m. start, was truncated to encompass start at South Lake Tahoe, and a trip along the west shore of the lake before heading onto Highway 267 and to the finish at Northstar-at-Tahoe Resort.

The National Weather Service forecast calls for snow showers with two inches of snow above 7,500 feet and ridge gusts up to 75 mph this afternoon.

Local organizers hoping to showcase the Lake Tahoe region tried to take the bad weather in stride.

"It certainly isn't quite what we were hoping for," said Andy Chapman, tourism director for the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association. "What Tahoe brings is a very alpine environment to this race. We know it can snow anytime during the year up here. Unfortunately, it chose today."

"Today is definitely not going to be a typical spring day in the Sierra," said Scott McGuire, a forecaster for the National Weather Service's Reno office.

McGuire said the current system is not a one-day blip. The unusually cold and powerful system - for this time a year - is expected to hang off the California coast for a few days, continuing the interesting Sierra weather.

The tour is scheduled to finish its third stage in Modesto.

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