Tour de San Luis, Ready to Roll...

In three days time (Monday, the 21st) the peloton will roll out of the city of San Luis in Argentina, kicking off the week-long Tour de San Luis. In only its seventh running, the race, the first stop of the UCI's Americas Tour, has steadily grown in importance. Not only is it an early season testing ground of rider fitness and team preparation for the coming European campaign, but it has also become a significant competition in its own right. The race gives Pro-Continental teams from both north and south America, as well as smaller domestic Continental level teams, the opportunity to compete against the larger World Tour Teams, many of whom now make the race an annual stop on their schedule.

Past General Classification champions have included Vincenzo Nibali (2010) and Levi Leipheimer (2012). Among this years World Tour Team competitors will be Peter Sagan, home-favorite Lucas Haedo, and Ted King of Team Cannondale, Mark Cavendish and Sylvain Chavanel of Omega Pharma-Quick Step, Vladimir Karpets from Movistar, Michael Albasisni and Svein Tuft of Orica GreenEdge, Tejay van Garderen and Thor Hushovd from BMC, Vincenzo Nibali and Fredrik Kessiakoff of Astana, Jurgen Van den Broeck from Lotto-Belisol, Filippo Pozzato and Alessandro Petacchi representing Lampre-Merida, Alberto Contador and Nicki Sorensen for Team Saxo-Tinkoff, and Jean-Christophe Peraud of AG2R La Mondiale. Pro Continental Teams will be represented by Katusha, Androni Giocatolli, Rural Housing (Spain), Fantini Vini, Team Netapp-Endura, UnitedHealthCare, CCC Polsat POLKO WICE (Poland), and CSF INOX Valvole Bardiani. The US-based UnitedHealthCare team will be well represented by Robert Forster, Jake Keough, Alessandro Bazzana, Marc de Maar, Lucas Euser, John Murphy, Philip Deignan, and Jeff Louder, a squad strong enough to factor into each of the daily stages. Among the Continental Teams competing iss the US-based Jamis-Hagens Berman; they will be represented by Argentine-native J.J. Haedo, and Ben Jacques-Maynes, and should not be overlooked.

With two stages over 170 km in length, and the shortest at 155 km, plus a 19 km time trial, three Category 1 assents, and enough flatter sprint finishes to attract Mark Cavendish, I expect there will be plenty of action. And, lest you be lulled into thinking that the big guys have things wrapped up before the racing even starts, lets not forget that in 2011 Chilean, Marco Arriagada, racing as an amateur, took the overall victory.