Robert Förster is confident in his ability to bring UnitedHealthcare a bunch sprint victory at the Amgen Tour of California.
The German fast-man is hoping to win the predicted stage two sprint on the finishing circuits in Sacramento.
“I’m here for sprinting and I think that we have two of three chances at a stage win this week,” Förster told Cyclingnews. “There are a lot of big riders here with [Oscar] Freire and [Thor] Hushovd but I have beaten them in Europe last year. When I have good legs then I can beat them, it’s no problem.”
Some likely sprint stages include stage three in Modesto, stages five in Paso Robles and stage eight in Thousand Oaks. Other notable sprinters include Daniel Oss (Liquigas-Cannondale), Greg Henderson and Ben Swift (Sky ProCycling), Juan Jose Haedo (Saxo Bank-SunGard) and Matt Goss (HTC-Highroad).
“The first stage would have been good for me because it was hilly and a good way to open the legs. I haven’t raced in ten days and it was important that I have one stage before the first sprint stage. It helps to open the legs a little bit."
Förster is a respected sprinter amongst the peloton. He has established himself in the international scene for over a decade racing for teams Nurnberger, Gerolsteiner and Milram. He has won bunch sprints at the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a Espana, Circuit de la Sarthe, Denmark Rundt, Tour of Turkey, Deutschland Tour and the Volta ao Algarve.
Förster brought his new US-based Professional Continental team its first season victory at the Tour de Langkawi. He went on to achieve early season success, with two top 10 finishes at the Clasica de Almeria and Vuelta Ciclista a Murcia, and a recent stage win at the Vuelta a Asturias.
“We were based in Europe last month with a lot of racing over there and now all the riders are ready to go,” Förster said. “I came to the race four days prior to the start and stayed in Sacramento. My legs are good for the first sprint.”
“We did do some good races in Europe and it was good to build the fitness but they were not for sprinting,” he added. “We did a lot of racing in Spain, Italy and Portugal which is a lot of up and down and it was good for the body and good for the base. I think it will be better now because we have a lot more sprinting to come and the Amgen Tour of California is only the beginning.
UnitedHealthcare placed a large emphasis on the overall classification with Rory Sutherland. However, Forster does have some support in the sprints with lead-out riders Karl Menzies and Andrew Pinfold.
“I have Menzies and Pinfold here,” Förster said. “We have not ridden too often together in the past and I think that is a little bit of a problem, but, the boys are professionals and they have good legs so I think we will be fine together.”
Förster was not impressed with the foul winter weather conditions that caused the cancellation of stage one and the shortened and revised route for stage two heading into Sacramento. The stage was originally scheduled to begin in Squaw Valley but was moved out of the High Sierra Mountains to Nevada City.
“I raced here in 2007 and it was very, very bad,” Förster said. “It was raining and very cold and after the race I said to my directeur that I would never be back in California in February.”