18 teams announced for 2015 Tour of California

Drapac, MTN-Qhubeka, SmartStop to make debut appearances

AEG, the organisers of the Tour of California, announced the 18 teams that have been invited to the 2015 edition of the race, including eight WorldTour, four Pro Continental and six domestic squads. Although there will be no return for 2011 winner Chris Horner, whose Airgas-Safeway squad was not invited, the race did invite three newcomers: US Pro champion Eric Marcotte's SmartStop team, the Australian Drapac squad and the South African MTN-Qhubeka team.

There will be a chance for fans to see Peter Sagan attempt to pad his record of 11 stage wins in the race: Tinkoff-Saxo is among the WorldTour teams who will compete in the eight-stage race.

"I have had some of my best results at the Amgen Tour of California, and I want to return every year because it just gets better and better," Sagan said. "The Sprint competition will be tougher than ever because of all the talent this year, but I'm hoping to wear green again in the golden state!"

Sagan will have strong competition from Giant-Alpecin's Marcel Kittel after his domination in the 2014 Grand Tours. Etixx-Quickstep, Cannondale-Garmin, and Team LottoNL-Jumbo could also field competitive sprint squads, while BMC Racing, Team Sky and Trek Factory Racing will likely vie for the overall victory.

In addition to Drapac and MTN-Qhubeka, the UnitedHealthcare and Novo Nordisk teams make up the Pro Continental contingent, while domestic pro teams SmartStop, Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies, Hincapie Racing Team and Axeon Cycling Team made the cut.

The California-based Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis team and Jamis-Hagens Berman p/b Sutter Home squads will have extra motivation for the race, with Fred Rodriguez and Ben Jacques-Maynes, respectively, making their final appearance in the race before retirement.

"The 10th anniversary of the Amgen Tour of California is a momentous occasion, and that will be reflected in a bigger-than-ever competition with the highest caliber of teams yet for 2015," said race director Kristin Bachochin Klein. "Over the past 10 years, this race has developed into the most well regarded cycling event in the nation, and beyond that, something really special that resonates with fans around the world. Year after year, we're proud to raise the bar and deliver an even more exciting race to our supporters, partners and participants."

This year's nearly 700-mile course will wind through 13 host cities, including Sacramento, Nevada City, Lodi, San Jose, Pismo Beach, Avila Beach, Santa Barbara, Santa Clarita, Big Bear Lake, Ontario, Mt. Baldy, Downtown Los Angeles and Pasadena from May 10-17.

Teams for the 2015 Tour of California:
BMC Racing Team, USA
Etixx – Quick-Step Pro Cycling Team, Belgium
Team Cannondale-Garmin, USA
Team Giant-Alpecin, Germany
Team LottoNL-Jumbo, Netherlands
Team Sky, Great Britain
Tinkoff-Saxo, Russia
Trek Factory Racing, USA
Drapac Professional Cycling, Australia
MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung, South Africa
Team Novo Nordisk, USA
UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team, USA
Axeon Cycling Team, USA
Hincapie Racing Team, USA
Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis, USA
Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies, USA
Jamis-Hagens Berman p/b Sutter Home, USA
Team SmartStop, USA

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