Sunday, June 25, 2017

Defending Champion Peter Sagan Returns to Amgen Tour of California

Following a break after the successful Spring Classics campaign, combined with a few mountain bike forays to test his off-road form, 13-time stage winner at the race Peter Sagan will return to road action at the Amgen Tour of California this May. Peter won the event in 2015 and will be looking to add to his tally of stage successes at this year’s edition.

AToC Tinkoff Team photo 2016

Joining Peter at the eight-day race in America will be many riders that also supported him in the classics. These riders include Erik Baška, Adam Blythe, Oscar Gatto, Michael Gogl, Michael Kolar and Nikolay Trusov. The line-up is completed by Peter’s brother Juraj who made strong progression during the spring, and will be starting his first Tour of California.

“I'm really looking forward to coming back this race - it's a great event at which I have some really good memories," Peter told us before starting his journey over to America. “The Amgen Tour of California means a lot to me, it's a race I’ve liked competing at over the past years and it has now become a tradition in my program. Previously, in California, I've been very successful and I believe that, after a little rest, I will be back again at a good performance level. I would be happy if I am again competing for some strong results here. This year will be a very difficult edition, and not quite suited to my style but stage by stage we will see what we can do.”

Peter Sagan in rainbow jersey

Despite coming into the race as defending champion, the course doesn’t suit Peter for another shot at the overall classification due to a punishing mountain finish on stage 3 to Santa Barbara County. The 167.5km day ends in the 12km climb of Gibraltar Road, averaging 8%, and this will be a day for the climbers to stamp their authority on the race.

Sport Director for the race, Patxi Vila gave his thoughts on the Tinkoff line-up. “We have a fast team here in what is going to be quite a tough race. We come here with Peter as leader in search of stage results, and then for the GC we will see how Gogl is – he can test himself and then see how he stands against the others.

“We then have a strong team around Peter to target stages with Blythe, Gatto, Trusov & Kolar back racing. The race will also be used by many of the guys to touch base with race rhythm again and to restart their focus for the second half of the season. Peter has had a good break after the classics with some mountain bike racing and some time at home so he’s relaxed and ready for the next stage of the season. I don’t expect him to come here on top form like last year but it will be a good race to build on for his coming goals.”

There will several other opportunities for Peter to show his turn of speed, including the opening stage which also presents the chance to steal the first leader’s jersey of the week. There’s also a 20.3km individual time trial on the day six to make sure there’s something for everyone at this race. The week then comes to a close with a town center sprint showdown in Sacramento.

Looking at the stages, Vila added: “Stage 1 is already a good one. I don’t think the whole bunch will be together but it will be a good one for Peter. An early result would be great to take the pressure off for the rest of the week. Then stages 2 and 7 are also quite suited to his strengths. It’s a nice race this – good roads, well looked after in the race hotels, and not too stressful so I’m looking forward to heading back to California.”

The Race

Stage 1: San Diego – San Diego, 175km

The opening stage of the Amgen Tour of California starts and finishes in stunning, beach-front city of San Diego, and it should offer the race it’s first chance at a bunch sprint to settle on the first yellow leader’s jersey of the race. It will not be plain sailing for the bunch, however, with a relatively tough first category climb to conquer mid-stage, 9.5km at an average of 5.5% gradient. But with there being mainly descent and then flat roads from 101km to the finish at 175km, there should be plenty of time to reel in those who have pushed ahead.

Stage 2: South Pasadena – Santa Clarita, 148.5km

The second stage offers little flat from start to finish, and the 14km climb from the start will remind the riders of this fact. Despite all this climbing, the ascents aren’t too aggressive, and if a breakaway moves clear early on you could still see a relatively decent sized bunch stick together over the hills. There are four classified climbs along the parcours, the second reaching the highest point of the stage, 1,410m, before descending for over 40km towards two second category climbs. The crest of the final climb comes with 30km to go, so there’s still a long way to go for it to be a real launch pad for attacks.

Stage 3: Thousand Oaks – Santa Barbara County, 167.5km

Day three is definitely the queen stage, and the day that will shuffle the general classification by the finish, with its 12km finishing ascent of Gibraltar Road, averaging 8% gradient. The day starts with two smaller classified climbs, serving as a launch pad for the day’s escape, before a long valley stretch mid-stage. The road then rises gradually to a third category climb after 121km before dropping back down towards the bottom of the day’s main difficulty.

Stage 4: Morro Bay – Laguna Seca, 217km

The longest stage of the race falls straight after the hardest, and despite only featuring smaller climbs along its route, stage 4 still has a sting in its tail. The day features three third categorized climbs within the first 142km, before more flat roads towards the final 15km where two more climbs await. The first of these climbs for 5.5km at 5.7% average, before dropping down then straight back up for a 1.1km ramp at over 10% gradient. The finish comes on a plateau after this final climb.

Stage 5: Lodi – South Lake Tahoe, 212km

Starting in Lodi, south of Sacramento, the race moves north east towards its finish on the shores of Lake Tahoe, Nevada. After around 50km of flat roads, the race gradually starts to climb, and continues for nearly 100km reaching the highest point of the week, 2,615m, after 164.5km. From here the stage rolls to the finish which comes atop a third category climb of 1.7km to the line. Altitude could play havoc on the riders today, but one thing’s for sure – the scenery will be spectacular!

Stage 6: Folson – Folson, 20.3km, ITT

The race’s only time trial is an out and back downtown route that gradually climbs in the first half, and descends back on the return leg. The ascents are shallow and the roads large, so will suit those that like the discipline.

Stage 7: Santa Rosa – Santa Rosa, 175.5km

There may be six classified climbs to tackle on the stage, but the climbs come in flurries and return to the flatter roads after each, and then there’s a long 30km flat run-in to the finish. The first climb is just 1.9km at 7.6% average, coming just 19.5km into the stage. Flat roads fill the gap until the climbing starts again after 53km with four categorized climbs in succession, the longest of which is just 2.8km in length. The final climb, 2.5km at 7.9%, crests at 123km so there’s plenty of time for the bunch to grow in size and for another group sprint opportunity.

Stage 8: Sacramento – Sacramento, 138km

As always, the race culminates in a sprint showdown in the city street, this year in Sacramento. A pan flat out-and-back loop brings the peloton to three finishing loops around the Capitol Park in the city center. Tinkoff will be looking to add another stage win to the growing number Peter already has in his palmares.


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