Saturday, February 17, 2007

Going Back To Cali

Finally. It seems like far more than a year has past since the INAUGURAL AMGEN TOUR OF CALIFORNIA (like I pointed out earlier, full name only...or else). And while last year's event was great and good times were had by all (pretty much), the second edition looks to be even better.

First and foremost, all respect to Michael Aisner and Mo Seagal for laying the foundation for this event back in the 1980's with the world-class fields of the Coors Classic, but the 2007 Tour of California boasts the most elite lineup in the history of U.S. bike racing. Once again, all due respect to LeMond, Hinault, Phinney, Hampsten, Alcala, Carpenter, Longo and all the rest...but this is a totally different situation. With a total of nine Pro Tour teams, both reigning World Road Champions and the virtually all of the best American racers, the sophomore edition of the AToC has a lot of promise...and a lot to prove.

A slightly more challenging course and a later, less decisive time trial look to open the race up a bit more than last year. In the first event, difficult climbs tended not to break up the leaders and the early TT in San Jose was won in convincing fashion by Floyd Landis, who went on to a relatively easy victory at the end of the week.

So...who will win the event? Honestly, I have no idea. It is incredibly hard to predict where a rider will be in terms of form when it is essentially the first big event of the year for many of these guys. But it is a relatively safe bet to predict that the typical big American guns will be out early so expect Discovery Channel and CSC to be very animated in the overall fight while the foreign riders take in the beauty of California and battle the domestic squads for the occasional stage win.

We'll get into Stage Profiles and predictions later but for now, let's take a look at the teams and a few of the more notable riders:

Discovery Channel - USA
Ivan Basso
Tom Danielson
George Hincapie
Levi Leipheimer

CSC - Denmark
Fabian Cancellara
JJ Haedo
Bobby Julich
Stuart O'Grady
Jens Voigt
Dave Zabriskie

Quick Step-Innergetic - Belgium
Paolo Bettini
Mateo Tossato
Bram Tankink

Predictor-Lotto - Belgium
Chris Horner
Freddie Rodriguez
Nick Gates

Rabobank - The Netherlands
Graeme Brown
Michael Rasmussen
Bram DeGroot

T-Mobile - Germany
Michael Barry
Gerald Ciolek
Greg Henderson
Aaron Olsen
Michael Rogers

Liquigas - Italy
Luca Paolini
Franco Pellizotti
Charlie Wegelius

Credit Agricole - France
Thor Hushovd
Sebastien Hinault
Saul Raisin

Gerolsteiner - Germany
Bernhard Kohl
Fabian Wegmann
Robert Forster

Health Net p/b Maxxis - USA
Ryder Hesjedal
Karl Menzies
Kirk O'Bee

Navigators Insurance - USA
Phil Zajicek
Glen Chadwick
Hilton Clarke

Slipstream-Chipotle - USA
Will Frischkorn
Patrick McCarty
Danny Pate
Tom Peterson

Toyota-United - USA
Chris Baldwin
Henk Vogels
Justin England
Chris Wherry
Ivan Dominguez

BMC Racing - USA
Alexander Moos
Michael Sayers
Jackson Stewart

Jelly Belly - USA
Andrew Bajadali
Alex Candelario
Mike Jones
Jeremy Powers

Colavita/Sutter Home - USA
Charles Dionne
David McCann
Alejandro Acton

Priority Health-Bissell - USA
Ben Jacques-Maynes
Garrett Peltonen
Tom Zirbel

USA Cycling Developmental Team - USA
Brent Bookwalter
John Devine
Chris Stockburger

Okay...I said we'd get to some predictions. Here's my first one - The list above will contain all but 4 of the Stage Winners and Overall Category Leaders (GC, mountains, points, young rider). I think I'll put the over/under at 4.5. I think I'm comfortable with that. more prediction for the prologue:


I don't feel nearly as comfortable with that list but I've ridden that course and the climb is more decisive than it seems. It'll catch up with the bigger guys by Coit Tower.

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