In addition to showcasing world and national champions, Olympic medalists and Grand Tour stage winners, the Amgen Tour of California also provides a platform for developing professionals to breakthrough to the next level. Two riders who made strong impressions during the 10th anniversary edition of America’s Greatest Race, Toms Skujiņš and Logan Owen, are in the spotlight this week.
The dust from the famed cobblestones has barely settled from this season’s third monument, Paris-Roubaix, and we turn our attention to the Spring Classics for the GC riders, three hilly one-day races known as the Ardennes Classics. Last year, a young French unknown, Ettix-Quick-Step’s Julian Alaphilippe, emerged and impressed with a pair of surprising second place finishes, which proved to be a harbinger for an overall runner-up result at the tenth anniversary Amgen Tour of California.
When Peter Sagan arrived in Sacramento last May, the weight on his shoulders was mighty. Pressured publically in the press by his Tinkoff team owner to earn his multimillion dollar salary with wins, the Slovak came correct using a powerful time trial triumph at Magic Mountain followed by an inspired climb to the summit of Mount Baldy to capture overall victory at the tenth anniversary Amgen Tour of California. Since that breakthrough, Sagan is arguably having the best year of any cyclist in the international peloton. His magic carpet ride continued Sunday when he won his first monument, Ronde van Vlaanderen, in cycling mad Belgium to assure his storied place in cycling lore.
For many of the more rugged and rapid riders, the road to May’s Amgen Tour of California is paved with cobblestones. Two of the four cobblestone classics took place this week in Belgium, the heart and soul of the cycling world. Earlier in the week, a terrorist attack in Brussels, the capital of Belgium, cast a dark cloud over the entire world yet in the end, Peter Sagan’s (Tinkoff) rainbow jersey illuminated Sunday’s Gent-Wevelgem finale as the reigning Amgen Tour of California winner won his first race as UCI Road World Champion.
Spring has officially sprung in California and we are less than two months away from the 11th Amgen Tour of California. This week, the stage race specialists are in Spain for Volta Ciclista a Catalunya, which runs Monday through Sunday. Among the favorites for the Spanish race are Amgen Tour of California winners Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) and Robert Gesink (Lotto-Jumbo).
Great Britain revealed their roster this week for next month’s UCI World Track Championships and two members of the squad are among the most accomplished cyclists in cycling history. Multi-time Amgen Tour of California stage winner Mark Cavendish and 2014 Amgen Tour of California champion Sir Bradley Wiggins will reteam to ride the Madison at the London Velodrome during the March 2-6 championships. The stellar duo first paired at the 2008 Track World Championships and are on track (pun intended) to ride for Team Great Britain this summer at the Rio Olympic Games.