Tour of California Preview
It's not just the Notorious BIG that’s going going, backback, to Cali Cali, but the peloton as well, with America’s biggest race, The Amgen Tour of California, returning for another year.
7 stages make up the race; 3 sprint stages, a 34.7km TT, two summit finishes and a punchy stage. The Summit finishes come on stage 2 up Gibraltar Road, and though it resembles a goat track up the side of a hill, its 12km long at 8% and will surely split the bunch. Stage 6 climbs 2000m over the first 120 kilometers, which incorporates a cat 1 climb, three cat 2 climbs, and a cat 3 climb without ever really descending along the way. From there it’s over the Daggett summit (12.1% at 6%) and the finishing climb to South Lake Tahoe, which is only a category 3 climb, 1.7km long.
This morning’s first stage finished with a bunch kick, after a pan flat day as Fernando Gavira won from Caleb Ewan and Peter Sagan. With no time gaps, this stage will have no effect on the overall results by the week’s end. We’ll take a brief look below at some of the big names at this year’s race – it's an elite field as far as sprinters go; with Sagan, Kittel, Ewan, Kristoff and Gaviria all here, but nobody really stands out as a huge sprint favorite.
The three-time World Champ returns to the country that most resembles his personality, and is in the hunt for more stages. Sagan’s won 16 stages in total at this race, including at least one every year since 2010 and the overall in 2015. That’s an incredible record, and the hilly Stage 3 to Laguna Seca (yeah, the racetrack) could suit him, while he’ll mix it in the sprints. Sagan hasn’t raced since Amstel Gold almost a month ago, so his form might be off, but it’s a fair bet to say he’ll feature prominently.
Majka finished second here last year, as George Bennett won the overall. With the New Zealander racing the Giro this year, Majka starts as one of the favorites – his form’s been questionable this spring – he finished in the top 5 overall at San Juan and Abu Dhabi, but was inconspicuous at Tirreno, and hasn’t raced much since. Majka is a perennial tease; it would be like him to show form here, win a stage, finish just off the podium and then hardly show his face until Le Tour where he’ll come second in the KOM classification or something.
The Manx Missile’s had a spring to forget after several crashes, including a nasty one at Milan San Remo that spoiled his main target of the early season. You’d say he’s on a form finding mission here, but he’s a threat at every sprint, and particularly here, where he’s won 10 stages total in his career.
There’s nothing like some light-hearted brotherly competition, and Simon’s currently leading the “Who’s the better Yates” competition after taking the Giro’s Maglia Rosa and winning a stage. If Adam wants to regain his title, an overall win here would probably go a long way towards doing so. A healthy Yates would lead the list of contenders for the overall, but he hasn’t raced since breaking his pelvis a few weeks ago at the Volta a Catalunya. It should be interesting to see where his form’s at over the next week and if he can build for the Tour, where a lot of the competition there will be coming off a tough Giro.
Bernal turned heads a few heads at the Tour of Romandie when he won the mountain time-trial over Primoz Roglic and Richie Porte. He’s the next hot thing out of Colombia as everyone grows tired of Quintana’s stoicness, and you can expect him to light up the climbs over the next week. He just seems one of those riders that froth at the lips when they line up for a hilly stage, and he’s not afraid to race aggressively; a breath of fresh air compared to the rest of the robotic Sky lineup.
We will be sure to keep one eye on California over the next week as the Giro really starts to heat up.