Tour of California: Locals Only Preview

tour of california preview Here is a brief preview of three of the U.S.-based teams participating in the 2009 Tour of California. If all goes well, part 2 will cover the rest, including the visiting Aussies, Fly V Australia. If all goes well, being the key word there. Like say, if there are no more doping scandals tomorrow? Gav, so totally lagging with this preview thingy.

In this edition: Ouch, Bissell, and Colavita/Sutter Home p/b Cooking Light.

Ouch

Floyd Landis returns to racing after his doping suspension to lead Ouch, the successor team to Healthnet-Maxxis. Landis has raced once since his return at the snowy, hilly Boulevard Road Race outside San Diego. By all acounts, Landis has scouted and trained on Palomar Mountain, which lies not too far from his home training roads of Temecula. He will want a stage win there, and no doubt will throw down big for the crono in Solvang. Can he also contend for the overall classification? It's hard to imagine why not. He can climb and he can ride well against the watch. What more could he possibly need?

Should Landis falter, Ouch is also bringing Australian Rory Sutherland. The 27 year old Sutherland has made the podium several times at the Australian National Championships in the crono. He has numerous stage racing results in the U.S., and finished second in Pasadena behind George Hincapie at last year's Tour of California. Sutherland is one of the more successful American-based riders out there. A deluxe support rider for Landis and a talented stage chaser, he finished 34th overall in the GC last year.

Landis will also have a strong supporting team. These guys are not on the level of Saxo Bank or Astana. But then, this race is not a grand tour either. Watch for Ouch to make the break every day. Because they're pro that way. Landis has an experienced road captain in Tim Johnson, though it's not yet clear if Landis will call his own shots or rely on Johnson to direct the troops as he did at HealthNet. Johnson is also experienced at getting in the right moves and riding in the wind for days at a time. Karl Menzies has a fast finish from a small group and isn't half bad as a bunch sprinter either. Ouch also has a possible stage chaser in Patrick McCarty, who joins the team from Garmin. Climber Brad White (3rd, stage Tour of Utah, 6th overall Tour of the Gila, which he won as a cat. 2) should provide solid support in the hills. Riding his first Tour of California, 24 year old John Murphy won the overall at the Tour of Taiwan last year for Healthnet-Maxxis. Any one of these riders could win from a break, if a chance came their way, but Landis is their main shot for a result. They'll ride hard in his support, and if he can make the podium on the general classification and grab a stage result, Ouch will count the race a success.

Team Bissell

Team Bissell's best hope for a result will come in the prologue and in the Solvang crono. Tom Zirbel finished second to Dave Zabriskie at last year's U.S. National Championship crono, ahead of Christian Vandevelde, Steven Cozza, and Tom Danielson. He recently finished second in the crono at the Tour de San Luis, beating out noted time trialists Ivan Basso and Vincenzo Nibali. Of course, it's hard to know just how hard everyone is working in January. Still, Zirbel has a good shot at a result in either race against the watch. In this company, though, a top five will be a success.

Ben Jacques-Maynes is also a rider to watch in both the prologue and the crono. He recently finished eighth overall at the Tour de San Luis and fourth in the crono. In last year's Tour of California he finished 16th overall. In recent interviews, he has said he would rather chase stages and ride an attacking race than wait for the crono day. But of course, his DS may think otherwise. Bissell will also bring

Look for BJM's twin brother Andy Jacques-Maynes to take what chances may come his way. A slightly smaller engine than Ben, Andy is a good rider for a break. A stage win would be a fabulous result, but is probably a big ask this time around. He'll take his chance where he can, but in this field, it may not come. Kirk O'Bee meanwhile is an outsider for the sprints. If luck ran his way, he's in with a chance in the last kilometer, but is more likely to place than win. A successful crit racer, O'Bee has a nice turn of speed. But not on the level of Cavendish or Boonen, who will likely dominate the sprint finishes.

Support and breakaway riders for Bissell include: Frank Pipp, Omer Kem, and Peter Latham. Watch for these riders to make the early move and show the flag.

Colavita/Sutter Home p/b Cooking Light

Colavita's best hope for a result in the general classification comes from Aaron Olson. Olson spent two years at T-Mobile turned Team Columbia, where he finished the Giro d'Italia twice. He also finished third overall at the Tour of Ireland in 2007. The Tour de Nez seems to be his favorite race on the calender, as he consistently gets results there. A good all-arounder, Olson can ride well against the watch and could if the stars align win from a break. A top 20 finish in the crono and top 20 result in the general would be a good race for Olson, though he has the potential to surprise.

Otherwise, Colavita is bringing a solid team that mixes some sprint speed with breakaway potential. Lucas Sebastien Haedo comes to the Tour of California after winning a stage at the Tour de San Luis. Typically a sprinter, Haedo won from a break on a climbing finish. Go figure. Look for him to mix it up in the last kilometer in this race. If he can sneak into the top five a few times, it will be a successful race for the young Argentinian. Haedo will share sprinting duties with Alejandro Barrajo who has results in American crits and stage wins at Redlands and San Dimas last year. The 28 year old rode the Giro d'Italia for Panaria in 2004 and finished in the top ten on several stages. Expect him to work with Haedo in the sprints, and like his team-mate a top five stage finish will be cause for celebration.

Colavita also brings two climbers to the race. Anthony Colby finished third in the overall at the Tour of the Gila, always a sign of climbing strength. Colby finished fifth in the prologue at Redlands in 2005, but don't get too excited about his chances in Sacramento. The Redlands prologue is a climb. Colby has assorted U.S. results. His best chance for a stage result is an escape on one of the hillier stages. A top ten result just about anywhere would be big. Likewise for Tyler Wren another talented climber with results at the Gila. The 28 year old will ride his first Tour of California this year. He has top ten finishes overall at races like Redlands and San Dimas. If he gets into a break, he might have a chance at a stage result. More likely, Wren and Colby will use the hard racing at the Tour of Cali to prepare for their objectives later in the season. But never say never.

Luis Araman won a stage at the Tour de San Luis from a breakaway. He held off the field solo on a flat finishing circuit. Quite the chancer, Araman. Can he do it in the high-octane Tour of California field? Probably not, but certainly he's on form and could surprise.

Support and breakaway artists: Anibal Andres Borrajo and Davide Frattini.

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