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Cycling and the weather have a troubled past

  • By Gregor Brown
  • Published Feb. 24, 2013
Race-day cancellations aren't common, but they're nothing new for cycling. Photo: Casey B. Gibson | www.cbgphoto.com

MILAN (VN) — Snow caused havoc across Europe this weekend, forcing the cancellation of Saturday’s Drôme Classic, and today’s GP di Lugano and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne races. However, it is not the first time bad weather has played its part in cycling.

Weather has helped create some memorable moments. Andy Hampsten rode through snow on the Passo di Gavia to secure his 1988 Giro d’Italia title, Bernard Hinault muscled through the 1980 Liège-Bastogne-Liège to win by nearly 10 minutes, and many others have braved it in nasty conditions.

Snow, rain, and wind sometimes become too much, however. Riders risk writing off an entire season due to an icy patch and organizers endanger their reputations.

“[It is a] good decision, safety comes first!” Bernhard Eisel (Sky) wrote on Twitter today about Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne. “Of course it’s a shame for the organizers, volunteers, and fans, but too risky for us.”

Riders have protested in the past, but have at times given in and raced. Their concerns regarding a pass caused the third leg of the 2006 Tirreno-Adriatico to be delayed, but little else. Paris-Nice, also in March, has seen many of its stages affected by bad weather. In 2005, three stages were re-routed or cut short. In 2008, teams drove their riders down the road to escape high winds and rain.

“Maybe we could have come up with a safe circuit around Kuurne, but there were still concerns,” Jos Callens, a KBK organization member, said today via Het Nieuwsblad. “We packed it in and ensured that everyone could head home quickly. The cancellation was the only and correct decision.”

Callens’ race joins a growing list of canceled events.

1986 and 2004 Omloop Het Volk: Race organizer Wim Van Herreweghe ordered the roads salted for safe passage in 2004, but it was too much. With snow still falling shortly before the race, Van Herreweghe said, “The safety of the riders could not be guaranteed … The parcours is too dangerous.”

1986 and 1993 Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne: Cyclone Xynthia caused high winds and miserable conditions for the 26 brave souls that finished in 2010 — 25 of them behind winner Bobbie Traksel. As with today, the weather was just too much in 1986 and 1993.

2003 Tirreno-Adriatico stage 4: Umbria and Le Marche are normally welcoming regions, but not so this time. Organizers toyed with the idea of starting the stage down the road to avoid an icy Col Fiorito, but decided to skip the leg all together.

2004 Paris-Nice stage 4: “It’s minus four degrees [Celsius] on Col de la Croix de l’Homme Mort, the road is wet, and the snow is still falling,” race director Jean-Marie Leblanc said. After pushing back the start time twice, he canceled the stage outright.

2011 Amgen Tour of California stage 1: Riders, including Andy Schleck, protested on the start line in Lake Tahoe. After some back and fourth, the organizers canceled the stage. AEG Sports President Andrew Messick explained, “The correct decision was not particularly hard to make, but it was disappointing for everyone.” The starter fired a pistol and riders rolled 300 meters back to the race hotel before a treacherous transfer and parking-garage trainer rides.

2011 Tour of Britain stage 2: Winds in the northwest forced the cancellation of this stage. “The high points [of the stage] and particularly Blackpool on the seafront is unsafe,” the organizer told the Press Association.

2012 Mallorca Challenge, Trofeo Serra de Tramuntana: The weather, particularly the snow, became too much to race in on Spain’s holiday island. It was the first time in more than 50 years that Mallorca had seen snow.

Other memorable moments

1996 Tour de France: Organizers scaled back the 176km ninth stage to just 46km due to snowy climbs.

2006 Giro d’Italia: Organizers cut the debut climb up Plan de Corones because of snow.

2010 spring classics: Volcano Eyjafjallajökull’s ash cloud prevented some riders traveling to northern Europe.

2012 Volta a Catalunya: The race jury honored Janez Brajkovic’s stage 3 win, but nullified the time differences due to the inclement weather.

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Gregor Brown

Gregor Brown

Bikes kept Gregor Brown out of trouble growing up in Oklahoma — BMX, freestyle and then watching Greg LeMond's Tour de France wins on CBS television's weekend highlights shows. The drama of the 1998 Tour, however, truly drew him into the fold. With a growing curiosity in European races and lifestyle, he followed his heart and established camp on Lake Como's shores in 2004. Brown has been following the Giro, the Tour and every major race in Europe since 2006. He will tell you it is about the "race within the race" – punching out the news and running to finish – but he loves a proper dinner, un piatto tipico ed un vino della zona.

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