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
CSC - Denmark
Quick Step-Innergetic - Belgium
Predictor-Lotto - Belgium
Rabobank - The Netherlands
T-Mobile - Germany
Liquigas - Italy
Credit Agricole - France
Gerolsteiner - Germany
Health Net p/b Maxxis - USA
Navigators Insurance - USA
Slipstream-Chipotle - USA
Toyota-United - USA
BMC Racing - USA
Jelly Belly - USA
Colavita/Sutter Home - USA
Priority Health-Bissell - USA
USA Cycling Developmental Team - USA
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.
Alright...one 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.