“My best memories from the AMGEN Tour of California come from last year…” American race veteran Danny Pate has seen a lot in almost 20 years as a professional cyclist. But what he and his Rally Cycling teammates achieved last year was at the same time brilliant and unprecedented! Not only did the Continental team become the first one to claim victory in a World Tour event, the highest level of racing… They did it twice, with Evan Huffman outplaying the big guns of an elite peloton both in Santa Clarita (stage 4) and on the final day at Pasadena (stage 7).
“You know, we were kind of coming on a low, with mechanicals and crashes and we kind of changed our strategy and captured a couple wins”, road captain Danny Pate recalls. “They were underestimating some of the breakaways and we were able to capitalise on that with Evan’s form.” Huffman climbed on the podium twice but he was the face of an impressive collective effort. On both occasions, the experimented canadian rouleur Rob Britton was with him to go for victory and he even finished second behind Huffman at Santa Clarita.
“That was definitely the most memorable time for me there”, Danny Pate insists ahead of his 9th participation on the AMGEN Tour of California, out of 13 editions for America’s biggest cycling event. “It’s an important race for me”, he explains. “It’s the premier race in the US, it’s World Tour status… and it’s still growing every year so it’s definitely a focal point for the team.”
The AMGEN Tour of California has actually always been a big rendez-vous for Danny Pate, who participated in the first edition back in 2006. The biggest race in America was then organised in February, before it found a shinier place at the heart of the cycling season. “We had a couple of bad years of weather in February so it works better in May”, Pate acknowledges. “But the race in general is still pretty much the same.”
Whatever the season, “it’s great to race at home, in front of American fans”, the Colorado-based rider rejoices. “You know it’s hard for Americans to have to come all the way to Europe and race against world class racers. But it’s great now that we have races and they actually fly over and race against us.”
In California, Danny Pate and every cyclist enthusiast can find “a great place to ride bikes. I’ve done quite a few training camps in California. And some holidays… but mostly training. The weather is great there. There are actually more caning climbs that you would think. You can go there in December, January, when it’s kind of hard in Colorado and some of the places in the States and get some decent climbing.” Good weather, beautiful climbs and stunning racing, welcome to California!