By Nigel Wynn
The opening stage of the 2011 Tour of California has been cancelled due to heavy overnight snowfall and the threat of further adverse weather conditions around Lake Tahoe.
Race organisers had already taken the decision to shorten Sunday's road stage around Lake Tahoe due to the weather. However, several riders had expressed concerns over the safety of racing in such conditions, particularly in the light of Wouter Weylandt's fatal accident at the Giro d'Italia on Monday.
The riders rolled out of South Lake Tahoe but there was some unease in the bunch and a protest was mooted with riders refusing to race. An official decision was made to cancel the stage and the riders returned to team hotels.
More rain, snow and wind has been forecast for Sunday night which may also affect Monday's stage from North Lake Tahoe to Sacramento.
The cancellation of the opening stage is a major setback to organisers who last year had shifted the race from its February slot to May to try and avoid the harsh winter weather of previous editions.
British digital television channel ITV4 had been scheduled to show live coverage of the opening stage.
The eight-day, UCI 2.HC-ranked Tour of California is scheduled to finish in Thousand Oaks on Sunday, May 22.
Six British riders are taking part in the race: Alex Dowsett, Chris Froome, Jeremy Hunt, Ian Stannard, Ben Swift (all Sky) and Charly Wegelius (Unitedhealthcare).
Tour of California 2011: Stages
Stage one, Sunday May 15, South Lake Tahoe to North Lake Tahoe, 191 km [CANCELLED]
Stage two, Monday May 16, North Lake Tahoe to Sacramento 214.4km
Stage three, Tuesday May 17, Auburn to Modesto, 196.2km
Stage four, Wednesday May 18, Livermore to San Jose, 131.6km
Stage five, Thursday May 19, Seaside to Paso Robles, 223.6km
Stage six, Friday May 20, Solvang to Solvang, 24km ITT
Stage seven, Saturday May 21, Claremont to Mount Baldy, 121.9km
Stage eight, Sunday May 22, Santa Clarita to Thousand Oaks, 132.4km
Tour of California to be shown on ITV4
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