Dutchman Theo Bos is an outside bet for a sprint victory on the first stage of the Amgen Tour of California when it finishes in Sacramento on Sunday. The Cervélo TestTeam rider has been making steady progress as a road sprinter since making the switch from a successful track career last season, and is looking to test himself against one of the strongest group of sprinters ever assembled at the American race.
After racking up four victories so far this season, including one against the peloton's star sprinter Mark Cavendish, Bos has found satisfaction in making upward progress in his new career path but is also realistic about his chances this week.
Speaking from his hotel in Sacramento on the eve of the Tour of California, Bos compared his rise to the top as a track sprinter to his current progress on the road. "On the track you build up to become better and better from a junior and suddenly you win big races and you do that for a while. It's totally the same [on the road] - you come from zero.
"That's the best thing about being a sportsman. Winning is not the only motivation, there is also the process of improving and being on the road to the top. When you look back, those are the best moments; not necessarily crossing the line in first position or having a lot of people cheering for you, but making those steps."
After a rocky debut season with Rabobank's Continental squad, Bos had a strong start to 2010 with his new Cervélo team. He took a surprising win in the Clasica de Almeria in February, besting Cavendish in a bunch sprint. He followed that up with a stage win in the Tour of Murcia and then two in the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon.
He is now coming back after a short break following those successes, as well as his first experiences with the Spring Classics. He was pleased to complete Paris-Roubaix in 53rd place before heading to Castilla y Leon.
"Paris-Roubaix was a really nice experience," he said. "I was really surprised I could keep on riding for such a long time.
"But after Castilla y Leon, I felt really, really tired," he said. "I won two times but with the worst feeling ever. After I had a break, and before coming here I've had two good weeks of training."
At the Tour of California, Bos faces one of the toughest fields of the season, and is guaranteed to get a solid test of his progress toward the top of the peloton. "I think the level is the highest I've been in this year. It's going to be a difficult race. I'm not sure where I stand at this level, so I can't predict anything.
"On the hardest races at the moment Cavendish is definitely number one. He's such a good rider - he didn't win in Almeria, but that's totally a different race."
At the Tour of California, Bos will go head to head with the rest of the sprinters on the first stage, a largely downhill course from Nevada City to a pancake flat finish in Sacramento. "We have a good team here for the sprints. Maybe tomorrow is the best day for me to do a good result, and we'll do our best.
"I think I can make a top-10 for sure, but I'll wait for tomorrow and see where we stand. It will be a good test for me."