A quick note on yesterday’s stage of the Tour of Catalonia that was due to finish in the ski station of Port Ainé until the snow appeared.
As a reminder, the day started with a forecast for snow and riders rolled out in cold rain. As the race progressed the rain turned to snow and a snowplough was busy ahead trying to clear the roads. Behind many riders were pulling out of the race and some were crashing out; a broken leg for Julian Dean. But late, after about 140km it was decided to shorten the stage and finish around the 155km mark. Janez Brajkovič won but the time gap from his breakaway with others was nullified.
The bad conditions, the uncertainty over the finish, the time gaps. What to make of it all?
First, let us remember that this race was about to be cancelled until an eleventh hour appeal for funds from the organisers saw the UCI step in and help secure the future of the race. Whilst the conditions were bad yesterday, organisers must have felt keen for the race to go ahead.
Ultimately though the decision is for the commissaires, the race referees. They have to take a view on the race, whether the race itself is safe and happening in acceptable conditions.
- nullifying the breakaway’s time advantage makes sense because the finish was brought forward, any planned chase from behind could not take place.
- bringing forward the finish seems to be the right idea given the planned finish line was under deep snow.
- the weather was bad but no surprise. The snow was forecast, after all the finish was in a ski resort.
Note the “show must go on” incentive of the race organisers. With their event under threat, presumably they didn’t want to disappoint the ski station that paid for the stage finish. At least the Port Aine ski resort gets publicity for prolific snow.
In situations like this it is not uncommon for the riders to approach race organisers and say enough is enough; we saw this in the Etoile de Bessèges. This wasn’t apparent yesterday, instead many riders quit the race one by one.
In summary, I don’t think much can be done to prevent situations like this. Bad weather rarely stops the sport. Riders race outdoors and nature brings wild weather sometimes, especially in the mountains and decisions on whether to race are made on the spot according to local conditions. The forecast did say snow but it was not snowing at the start yesterday and it was raining on most of the course.