Confident Abbott backed by Wiggle High5 – Women's Tour of California
A recent overall victory at the Tour of the Gila has given Mara Abbott with confidence heading into the Women's Tour of California, set to start on Thursday in South Lake Tahoe. The American climber will have the backing of her Wiggle High5 team, and support from her family, who will be watching the race from the sideline.
"I'm really excited to get to have my entire team here racing in the US!" Abbott said in a team press release. "I had a great race at Gila, which is one of my favourite events of the year and gives me confidence going into this week.
"My entire family gets to come see the race, which is really special for me!"
The Women's Tour of California is the eighth round of the new Women's WorldTour. This year, organisers are putting on a four-day race; a road race in South Lake Tahoe, a team time trial in Folsom, a road race in Santa Rosa; and a circuit race in Sacramento.
Wiggle High5 will have a second card to play with Emma Johansson, who is currently ranked fourth in the Women's WorldTour ranking. The Swedish national champion has never competed at the Tour of California before and said she is looking forward to the change.
"I'm happy to start on altitude as well as that makes temperature more like home," she said. "We had around 13-15 degrees [centigrade] today and the views are absolutely amazing.
"So besides the jetlag, after a very long travel day yesterday, today's ride was nice.
"For the race, it's difficult to know what to expect, but for sure the two first days are going to be the most important ones. We finish on top on Thursday and there's the TTT Friday - I think the GC will be decided after that."
Wiggle High5 for Women's Tour of California: Mara Abbott, Emma Johansson, Audrey Cordon-Ragot, Mayuko Hagiwara, Dani King and Amy Pieters.
Hall back for more at Tour of California
Katie Hall (UnitedHealthcare) had a stellar start to last year's Women's Tour of California, winning the opening stage at Heavenly Mountain Resort, after a 1.6km climb to the line that averaged 7 per cent gradient. The win brought her into the first leader's jersey of the race.
She is back to try and defend that opening stage victory as the 2016 race will begin with the same route from South Lake Tahoe to Heavenly Mountain Resort.
Hall will be supported in her GC goals by teammates Iris Slappendel, Annie Ewart, US criterium champion Lauren Tamayo, Coryn Rivera, time trial world champion Linda Villumsen.
Kirchmann, Liv-Plantur absent from the start line
One notable rider and her team missing from the start line this year are, Leah Kirchmann and Liv-Plantur. Last year, while racing for Optum, Kirchmann won two stages; stage 2 in South Lake Tahoe and stage 3 in Sacramento, finishing second overall by 5 seconds behind winner Trixi Worrack.
This year she is racing with Liv-Plantur, a team that will not be in attendance for the four-day stage race. She has had a strong season with a fourth at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, second at Omloop van het Hageland, she won Drentse Acht van Westerveld, and was most recently second in two stages of the Tour of Chongming Island and placed third overall.
Kirchmann will instead be making an appearance at her compatriot Steve Bauer's event; Steve Bauer Classic on Saturday.
Olds to miss Tour of California
Another absentee that will be felt during the Tour of California is Shelley Olds of the Cylance Pro Cycling Team. The American sprinter crashed in March while racing in Europe and sustained a concussion. She had planned to Tahoe once recovered to train for the Tour of California, however, when the organizers announced the teams for the event, Olds was noticeably missing.
Olds spoke to the Tahoe Daily Tribune in an interview and said that she was still recovering from her injuries. "My symptoms are pretty acute right now. I would say I have pretty severe symptoms still. I’m just kind of waiting for it all to settle down. I’m happy I was able to go to Colorado Springs to the Olympic Training Center and get treatment, a diagnosis and a treatment plan, which I didn’t have. I was just kind of winging it.
"I hope that just being here in Tahoe and being by the lake and being able to relax should be able to speed up my recovery process. I am hopeful that symptoms will settle down and I’ll be able to train."