2013 Amgen Tour of California Preview...

In case you haven't noticed, it has been rather quiet around these parts in regard to this weekends start to the Amgen Tour of California (ATOC). I'm not going to blame that on the fact that it is not making a close to my neighborhood pass-by, but the interest level is raised when it has done so in the past. Well, fair is fair, the organizers do need to give people in other areas of the state the opportunity to experience the excitement as well. 

not sure i will have any opportunity for any of these photo ops this year (nor if i will even make it to any stages) - 2012 with Sylvain Georges, who by the way is racing the Giro d'Italia this time around

Let me jump right in with some predictions; maybe they will be obvious, maybe not. First, the race is going to be hotly contested. Not withstanding David Zabriskie, most of the old-guard of American racing are out this year, leaving it up to the younger crowd to carry the stars and stripes - Tejay van Garderen (BMC) and Timmy Dugan (Saxo-Tinkoff) will be leading the charge of American riders. Those two will be facing off against one of the most talented groups of international riders the ATOC has seen, including Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma - Quick-Step), Thomas De Gendt (Vacansolei-DCM) and Michael Rogers (Saxo-Tinkoff) who won the overall here in 2010. A big question mark in this mix will be Andy Schleck (Radioshack). Two additional racers, who I don't think should be overlooked are Philip Deignan (United Healthcare) coming off a big win at the Tour of the Gila at the beginning of the month, and Francisco Mancebo (5-Hour Energy).

One "local" team to watch for is the Jamis-Hagens Berman squad, who ran rampage across some of the prominent Southern California races early in the season. I expect their racers, including sprinter J.J. Haedo, Ben Jacques-Maynes, and Janier Acevedo to figure prominently on a daily basis. A second squad that should line up well against the big UCI Pro level teams is Deignan's United Healthcare Team; they also are packed to support their team leader as well as contest individual stages. 

Speaking of those big-name teams with big-name riders. Leading the bunch is Peter Sagan, who won five stages during last years race, and should be a threat to add to that tally. Philippe Gilbert (BMC), Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp), Thor Hushovd (BMC), Juan Antonio Flecha (Vacansoleil), Johan Van Summeren (Garmin-Sharp), Boy Van Poppel (Vacansoleil), Baden Cooke and Cameron Meyer (Orica-Green Edge), Haimar Zubeldia (Radioshack), Matt Brammeier (Champion Systems), and the ever-prominent Jens Voigt (Radioshack), are just a few of the other riders who are going to make this years race very interesting.

The Stages:

Stage One, with the big climb of Mt. Palomar will test the riders' legs right off the bat. With a distance of 102 miles and 11,000 feet of elevation gain it sounds tough but, with the one big climb coming at the half way point, there should be plenty of time and distance for everyone to come back together for a big finish in Escondido. Stage Two is going to be a second consecutive tough one at 124 miles and nearly 10,000 feet of climbing. If the heat clamps down on the peloton as they make their way over the San Jacinto Mountains and into the finish at Palm Springs - ouch. Stage Three between Palmdale and Santa Clarita, and the heat could again play a factor. Gaining almost 9,000 feet over 110 miles this route is not quite as intense at the previous two. This one includes a couple of my old favorites - San Francisquito and Bouquet Canyons - the climb of SF is not especially troublesome, and followed by the long descent of Bouquet, will likely result in a nice sprint finish. Oops, it pays to look closely at the maps, I see they will be descending both canyons and climbing Lake Hughes Road. Same difference - the stage still ends by going down Bouquet into the city. Stage Four rolls from Santa Clarita to Santa Barbara over 83 miles and 5,000 feet gain. I can just envision them racing, at the end of this one, along roads I used to enjoy during a few years at university. Nothing technical, but some narrow roads - probably another sprint. Stage Five kicks off with the big climb over San Marcos Pass and a ripping fast descent off the other side. Look for someone to try and get away at some point during the 115 miles and nearly 8,000 feet of elevation gain, the second half of the stage though, is mostly downhill or lower rollers, so it will likely all come together before the finish at Avila Beach. This year's time trial, during Stage Six, at 20 miles on the outskirts of San Jose will give specialists their chance. But with over 2,000 feet of elevation gain, they had better be able to go uphill as well as tucked in along the flats. Stage Seven, and the devil is going to play. At just over 91 miles, it is not quite as long as some of the others, but ends with the summit finish of Mt. Diablo. This year's final stage is all up and down for 81 miles between San Francisco and Santa Rosa. Yes, the race will cross the Golden Gate Bridge and interestingly, it is only the third time in the past fifty-two years that it has been completely closed.

I am going to narrow my prediction list down to two - van Garderen and Chavanel - that's putting my neck on the chopping block, but they seem the strongest, have big-race experience, and have powerful teams behind them; the dark horse, Irishman Deignan. Nine day's from now we will see how it has worked out for me. All in all, the 2013 Tour of California should live up to all the hype and expectation of a world-class race. By the way, I like the addition of the California Bear to the jerseys.


  1. I am saddened by the fact there will be no Mt Baldy Stage.


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