Officials canceled the 20th America’s Challenge gas balloon race Wednesday due to the weather.
The gas balloon competition was scheduled to launch Saturday at Balloon Fiesta Park, but showers and thunderstorms forced delays.
It is the first time the race has been canceled due to bad weather for the first time since 2009.
According to Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta organizers, seven teams from the U.S., Germany, France, Poland and Spain had planned to participate in the distance race.
Organizers simply ran out of time since race rules called for the launch window to close Wednesday before midnight.
Event Director Johnny Petrehn expressed his regret that the race had to be cancelled and said he hopes the pilots will return for the next challenge in 2016.
“The weather is so unstable. Storms are popping up everywhere and it just made it impossible to get it off,” said Mark Sullivan, also an event organizer.
Polish pilot Krzytof Zapar was especially disappointed to hear the news. His team was close to winning last year.
“I’m very sad because last year I was in second place,” said Zapart.
Zapart says transporting his team and equipment from Europe was not easy or cheap.
He says he spent directly out of pocket. “Over $10,000,” said Zapart. “That was really, really big money for nothing – for zero.”
Albuquerque pilot Barbara Fricke says she understands why the decision was made.
“This was going to be about my 15th gas flight in America’s Challenge,” said Fricke.
She and her husband won the race three times over the years.
“Very let down, of course, because of course we wanted to fly, but very happy that the organizers were so concerned about the weather and our safety,” said Fricke.
Last year, the balloon that traveled the farthest made it to Kentucky.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.