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California key for HTC-Columbia

By:
Les Clarke
Published:
April 19, 2010, 8:20 BST,
Updated:
April 19, 2010, 9:57 BST
Edition:
Second Edition Cycling News, Monday, April 19, 2010
Michael Rogers (HTC-Columbia) at the start of the 2010 season at the Tour Down Under

Michael Rogers (HTC-Columbia) at the start of the 2010 season at the Tour Down Under

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American race the priority for home ProTour squads

It appears that HTC-Columbia is one of several American ProTour squad prioritising next month's Amgen Tour of California over the traditional focus of May, the Giro d'Italia.

Bob Stapleton's team is one of several American ProTour outfits sending its big guns to the Californian event, which has changed calendar slots for 2010, moving from February to May and now clashing with the first grand tour of the year.

"There's been quite a lot of discussion in the team concerning which race is the most important race for us," said HTC-Columbia rider Michael Rogers, who will be heading to California to spearhead the team's general classification effort.

Having made his Giro d'Italia debut last year, Lance Armstrong will head Team RadioShack's squad on home soil, with Garmin-Transitions also likely to send an illustrious roster boasting the likes of Christian Vande Velde to its home event in what is a definite trend amongst the 'local' ProTour teams.

Celebrating its centenary year last season, the Giro d'Italia hosted a field with massive star quality in 2009 - in particular, the interest shown from non-Italian squads. It appears that in 2010 the Italian event will return to its more traditional local focus, with national orientation playing its part on both sides of the pond.

"Obviously, being an American team, the Amgen Tour of California is a very important race for us; we've had very good success in the last couple years, and we'll probably split our best riders between the two races," continued Rogers.

History has shown that fighting battles on two fronts with the hope of success is a difficult, if not impossible task, and Rogers knows the team has its work cut out ensuring that good results can flow from both events.

"I'll be going to the Tour of California, as will Mark Cavendish, and [Andre] Greipel will be going to the Giro d'Italia - it's certainly not an easy thing to divide a team into two and have our best riders perform well at both," he said.

As for the situation concerning the team's aforementioned sprinters - Cavendish and Greipel - Rogers was diplomatic and reiterated that the focus for HTC-Columbia remains the same: winning bike races.

"At the present time they're the number one and number two sprinters in the world - it's always difficult to have two bulls in the same paddock," he stated.

The comment comes after a public exchange of views between the Brit and the German, with Cavendish declaring he would never ride another race with Greipel, who recently won five stages at the Presidential Tour of Turkey and took out January's Santos Tour Down Under for the second time. Rogers says there's no major issue, however.

"Sprinters are renowned for their title - they have strong characters and they defend their titles in a very strong way," Rogers continued. "I think teams have to manage the differences between the two and the main thing is that we win bike races. It's about going about that in the best way we can."

With the team's biggest stars - the likes of Rogers and Cavendish - heading to the Amgen Tour of California, the promise of good weather thanks to its May 16-23 calendar slot, a quality field and a large attendance from an ever-increasing American cycling public promises to be a sponsor's delight.

It's surely music to the ears of AEG Sports and its chief, Andrew Messick, who could have suffered a downturn in the race's performance following poor weather during last year's edition, which prompted the date change; the star-studded lineups affirmation of the decision to move the event to the late May date.

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