Poor Tour of California. You expect it to get dwarfed by the Giro, and it usually is, but this year it truly is getting its keister kicked by the Giro in the excitement department. In Italy we have already seen multiple stages of thrilling GC action, especially two days ago, and California has offered up none too much excitement. But, hopefully that will change later on this week as the race hits the slopes of Mt. Baldy on Saturday.
But, there have been some interesting moments in California so far, including one major stage revision...
- GC contenders are already Missing In Action. Andrew Talansky withdrew on Stage 1, his team citing health issues, leaving the race even more wide open. Sergio Henao is likely the biggest favorite now, especially because the time trial on Stage 6 will fail to open up huge gaps on the GC and the mountaintop finish the next day looks great for him.
Lachlan Morton, too, isn't here after not taking the start to Stage 1. I can't find word on why, though.
- Sagan got the monkey off his back, in a way, with a stage win yesterday. It must have been a relief after three consecutive second place finishes, two behind Mark Cavendish in sprints and one where he was the first out of the bunch on a steep hilltop finish behind a lone survivor of the day-long breakaway. Sagan's win came at the end of one of those stages California is well known for, the ones with lots of climbing in the middle of the stage and a flattish run in to the sprint, not enough to drop all the fast men but definitely to thin the herd before the sprint.
- Oh, and Sagan is the king of second place after finishing immediately behind Cavendish for a third time in this year's race. Though, Sagan may be the only rider in the race not entirely pleased at the prospect of four second places and *only* one stage win.
- The kids are doing alright, or at least Tom Skujins is. The 23 year old on the Hincapie Development Team added to the squad's haul of impressive wins, including Robin Carpenter's stage win in Colorado last year, by attacking the break over the day's HC climb and holding on for a stage win some 47 seconds ahead of the chasing pack, led in by Sagan. In doing so he bested WorldTour riders Daniel Oss and Roy Curvers, no mean feat. He should hold onto the lead until Saturday's queen stage.
- Stage 7 to the top of Mt. Baldy just got a lot more important because the Stage 6 time trial at Big Bear was cancelled due to impending inclement weather. Really, you'd think that the race organizers would have learned by now that good weather at 6,000 plus feet in May is iffy, but I suppose the Giro makes this kind of gamble every day. Now, the stage isn't truly cancelled, but it is being moved down the slopes of the mountain to Magic Mountain Theme Park and the surrounding roads. The biggest change is not the drop in elevation but instead the reduction of the distance from a middle-range 24.1km test to a 10.6km one. With a race that is likely to take less than 12 minutes for the winner, time gaps will be small indeed, tipping the scales even more in favor of climbing talents like Henao over more rounded racers.
- Oh, and one more (new) thing: Lachlan Morton is in the race, but you wouldn't know it by looking at results reported on some other websites... Sadly he's not doing too well, sitting 92nd in the overall. He's definitely not back to the sparkle we saw in him two summers ago.