File under California Dreaming: the stated objective of the Tour of California is to take its rightful place someday among the Giro, Vuelta and Tour. Hey, you don't get anything if you don't ask, right? But with talk of shortening the Vuelta and generally easing the stress of the calendar as a disincentive to doping, now's probably not a good time to talk about expanding the American race to three weeks.
That said, if you could erase tradition and culture, or just scrap the Vuelta as some suggest, California could probably pull off an acceptable route. And last year's inaugural race showed that, in pockets of this country anyway, you can pack the roadsides with serious Cycling fans. Still dreaming? You bet... but hey, for the next week, it's a nice idle thought.
Back down on Earth, VeloNews is covering the bejeezus out of the race. Professor Wilcockson, the dean of the U.S. Cycling press corps (I really mean that), tips Leipheimer for the overall. Probably the safest bet, at least with his 2006 nemeses (long ITT, Floyd Landis) removed from the equation. Plus he's home, and making his Disco debut as well.
Having Paolo Bettini in town is probably going to be the single most entertaining factor, if only because we can make cracks like "Hey Paolo, My Little Pony called, she wants her bike shoes back." Personally I hope he bags a stage. It's early for the April guys, but Bettini seems to hold his form forever.
And the best part? Versus will be airing live from 2-4pm, preempting its plans to show the World Series of Greased Pole Climbing. We'll have a live open thread for people to comment, and I'll be sure the kids are napping by then.