Of Spandex and Snow

This week South Lake Tahoe was inundated with pro cyclists, as the Amgen Tour of California was starting on our side of the lake. Getting this was a big deal for Lake Tahoe tourism folks, and even with the added excitement of the temporary closure of Highway 50, the main east-west artery to South Lake Tahoe, we’ve still got lots more people in town than we usually see during our mud season.

Since I have friends who were involved in the organizing, I got asked to help out on Friday night, escorting the teams to the presentations that occurred during the Opening Night Gala. So I and a few girlfriends got gussied up in the nicer dresses we’d never otherwise have a reason to wear here, and ushered the various pro cycling teams through the back corridors of MontBleu. It was actually more fun than it sounds. I’m not a huge cycling fan, as I tend to participate in sports more than I watch them, but even I recognized a few faces as the various teams came off the elevators.

The start and first stage of the actual race were scheduled for Sunday. In typical Tahoe fashion, the forecast was for snow. There was much talk about it going into the weekend, and when Saturday dawned cloudy and breezy, but not snowy, it seemed like we were going to get a free pass. Heck, you could see the moon last night, which seemed like a good omen.

Perfect day for a pro cycling tour.

Alas, we woke up to snow Sunday morning, and not just a dusting. This sucked for the cyclists, but was really good news for skiers. So Nils and I decided to brave the weather and roads and drive to Alpine Meadows. We went up the west side, which happened to be the proposed course for Stage 1, and we came across a number of signs that seemed highly incongruous against the snowy/slushy roads.

Snow sprinting?

To be honest, the drive up was nasty, and after seeing more than a few cars off the road just north of Emerald Bay, it didn’t seem like the race would go. But we figured we’d keep tabs on it while we skied, just in case.

Not hitting bottom

Conditions at Alpine were surprisingly good, considering that visibility sucked and there was a hard surface underneath the 7-10 inches of reported snow. While a bit slabby in the earlier part of the day, the snow actually got lighter and drier as the morning went on. Snowstorms at this time of year are not unusual, but the accumulation and temperatures were decidedly less spring-like than typical. So this was a real sleeper/bonus powder day, one well worth the drive and gas money spent!

We had heard that the race was going to be delayed until 1.15 pm, so we left the mountain a little before 1 to see if we could catch the men in spandex at Emerald Bay. The roads back were snow-free, just wet, so we figured all systems were go. Listening to the local radio station, which had a correspondent at the start line, we learned that they cancelled the race a mere thirty seconds before the start. It seems there was concern about the roads and the risk of hypothermia. Disappointing to be sure, but given that it’s still snowing three hours after the race was called, it seems it was the right call.

But that said, I’m sure that many more people now know that it does actually snow in California.

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