Tour of California

toc2.jpgWOW! I have never been so psyched for a race on American soil since the days of the Tour de Trump.

Sunday marks the prologue of the 8-stage, 650 mile Amgen Tour of California (TOC). This is the 3rd year for this UCI ranked race but never (in my mind) has the field been so stacked with exciting riders and teams. There has been the Coors Classic, the Tour of America, the Tour de Trump, and the Tour of Georgia but this year’s TOC features more professionals with experience winning big races on a world stage than I can remember.

There will be 8 ProTour teams and 8 domestic pro teams battling for glory. This balance of teams should give more parody to the race. It will be exciting to see how our domestic pro teams stack up against elite level teams of this high of caliber. In the past, Discovery Channel stacked their team with heavy hitters leaving crumbs for the rest of the pack. However, this year, Disco is no more and the other European teams aren’t leaving their stallions at home. In the past, ProTour teams have sent 1 or 2 quality riders and comprised the rest of their squadra with up and coming espoirs. This year will be a battle of our best against their best.

toc1.jpg2008’s course will be slightly different than 2007. First of all the leg-burning, lung-busting, gear-grinding prologue of 2007 has been replaced by a flat 2.1 mile test of truth. This will be a no-holds-barred, put it in the big ring, mano y mano prologue. With names like David Millar, David Zabriske, Levi Leipheimer, Bradley McGee, George Hincapie, Michael Rogers, and Fabian Cancellara this will be a battle of giants. Who knows, though, maybe the adrenaline of home turf will put one of our domestic pros atop the podium.

There will be more climbing this year also. The climbs should separate riders like Leipheimer, Tyler Hamilton, Oscar Sevilla, Rogers, Bobby Julich, Chris Horner, Sergei Ivanov, and Christian Vande Velde from the pretenders. But, again, can a domestic pro create a coup-de-tete and score a prestigious win?

I am looking forward to seeing how, my once favorite rider, fresh off a doping ban, Tyler Hamilton competes on the big stage. Will this be the beginning of the end of a magnificent career or the beginning of another fruitful season?

I am looking forward to see how classic and sprint specialists Paolo Bettine and Tom Boonen compete against some of our speedier pros. I mean, haven’t you ever wondered how an elite domestic pro would do against a former Paris-Roubaix champion, the current World Champion, or a perennial classics winner? This should be exciting folks! With 8 ProTour teams sending their top riders there will be plenty of strategy. No more one team rules and everyone else is racing for second place. There should be a battle royal until the end in Pasadena.

toc3.jpgYou can catch daily live coverage at www.amgentourofcalifornia.com or watch nightly recaps on Versus. Below is a TV listing of stages airing on Versus:

  • SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 17 2PM PST/5PM EST
  • MONDAY, FEBRUARY 18 8PM PST/11PM EST
  • TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 19 8PM PST/11PM EST
  • WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 20 8PM PST/11PM EST
  • THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 21 8PM PST/11PM EST
  • FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 22 8PM/PST/11PM EST
  • SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 23 2PM PST/5PM EST
  • SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 24 2PM PST/5PM EST