By Mark Zalewski in San Francisco
Ralph Waldo Emerson once quipped, "The attraction and superiority of California are in its days. It has better days and more of them, than any other country". This saying rang true for the first edition of the Tour of California in 2006, with the seasonal rain seemingly put on hold for the entire eight days of racing. The sunshine and warm weather are among the many draws for the nine ProTour teams flying around the world to the Golden State, as are the eight stages of good race training as the European season draws near.
The 2007 Tour of California, once again sponsored by the drug company Amgen (one of the world's largest manufacturers of EPO, among other products), will cover 650 miles (1028.1km with a 3.1km prologue) in eight days. The 2007 race is expected to be tougher than last year's event and the last few days of the race, when riders are more fatigued, are likely to be more difficult.
The nine ProTour teams is an increase from last year's eight, and with the likes of Quick Step-Innergetic bringing world champion Paolo Bettini, the word seems to be out in the European peloton that this is a race to make room for on the calendar.
Some will likely use this race for training, as in the aforementioned world champion, while others will be looking to make an early season statement - like the riders new to the ProTour. And then there are the US teams, which run the spectrum from a ProTour squad in Discovery Channel, to Professional Continental and domestic Continental squads, as well as the US National Development Team. All the American riders will be keen on taking wins on home soil - whether they be top tier Euro-pros or US based racers.
To read the full Tour of California preview, click here.