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Referees Cancel Men’s Stage 3 Nature Valley Grand Prix Road Race

June 18, 2010

by Lyne Lamoureax

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 tornado warnings.

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. They could have kept racing us and what happens if there is a tornado?”

Jonas Carney, Directeur Sportif of the Kelly Benefit Strategies squad also agreed that it was a good decision to cancel the stage.

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. The shortened stage was something Carney was not in favor of. “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.

While race radios were not needed to stop the riders for the turnaround, they certainly would have helped to relay the information about the cancellation of the stage. And the radios could have come into play had the bad weather hit with riders off the back of the field.

Riders were obviously disappointed as they were expecting a hard fought battle on the tough stage but agree with the decision to call the stage.

“I think it was in the back of a few guys mind that we could get some severe weather but we were just preparing for a big fight in the possible crosswinds so it ended up being kind of a letdown,” said Zwizanski, who then added “People were upset because of the letdown, I don’t think they made a wrong decision.”

With no changes in the overall classification, the racing continues on Friday evening with the Uptown Minneapolis Criterium. New in 2009, this race saw huge crowds lining the entire course and some incredible racing. The course has teams racing past Calhoun Square on a .88 kilometer course that comprises six tight corners and a furious race to the finish line.


Severe Weather Forces Cancellation of the Cannon Falls Road Race

by Cynthia Lou

On a humidly sunny day as the Midwest knows so well, 92 women lined up at the start, adrenaline and anticipation in the air. The jersey-wearers were called up to the line and to the naked eye it seemed a race-start as usual, when race officials abruptly announced the cancellation of Stage 3 of the Nature Valley Grand Prix – the Cannon Falls Road Race.

Like prying delicious-looking – but poisonous – candy out of a child’s hands, there was much disappointment from the peloton.

”I been through hail, snow, rain, wind – so bring it on,“ said Coryn Rivera (Peanut Butter & Co Twenty12).

”It’s not that we don’t recognize that there is a problem,“ said René Wenzel, team director of HTC-Columbia. ”We can see the weather, check our radios and our mobiles. It’s that we’re not trying. I think it’s sad we’re going to cancel before it actually happens. It’s happened before that there was a tornado warning, we started the race and then we took shelter – 20 minutes later it was all clear and we could move on.“

Paul Merwin, the Women’s Race Technical Director explained that race officials were fully aware of the route and lack of shelter to accommodate 100 riders in bad weather. ”There isn’t any,” he said. “Once you’re out there, there’s no where to go. It’s just open farm fields. A couple years ago we had a lightning strike and everybody crammed into a pole barn, but we don’t even have that out here.“

And pole barns don’t withstand tornadoes in Minnesota or elsewhere.

“We had a difficult conversation an hour in advance of are we going to go,” Merwin said. “We decided we were going to go and take the chance. It wasn’t until the very last minute that our state patrol car was on the phone with the National Weather Service and said, ‘You need to come see this’, that we see it’s a big red blotch and it’s coming right towards us. It went from, ‘There’s a 50% chance of significant weather’ to ‘there’s hail and 60 mile an hour winds on the way here’. That’s a level of certainty that we can’t ignore.“

Race officials tried every angle, looking for shortcuts, scoping out potential exit points, return points, and areas of shelter. In the end, definitive reports of severe tornado weather conditions from the National Weather Service caused the race to be called off.

”I’m really disappointed,“ said David LaPorte, Executive Director of the Nature Valley Grand Prix. ”This was going to be an awesome stage, especially with the potential of the wind breaking up the general classification. Often times the Cannon Falls Race, when it’s calm, everyone rolls back into town as one big peloton and then a pack sprint for the finish. When you have a cross-wind you can gain or lose massive amounts of time. It looked like we could have that cross-wind, but it looked like we could also have a major downpours and hail; it was just too dangerous. The women’s race we canceled because we saw it coming in and the men’s race, when they started, it looked like it was going to be okay and as it developed they had to cancel it as well.“

”Yes, I’m disappointed, but it’s better than getting pounded on by hail and 60 mph winds and possibly really getting hurt,“ said Shannon Koch (GG Events Management).

”I finally got to do a stage race with a rest day,“ Katherine Carroll (Peanut Butter & Co TWENTY12) Tweeted lightheartedly.

Tomorrow sees the leaders line up again to shake up the tightly packed general classification at the Uptown Minneapolis Criterium.