Juan Jose Haedo (Saxo Bank-SunGard) is a five-time stage winner of the Amgen Tour of California and he is in pursuit of a sixth win this week. The Argentine sprinter is one of the faster riders in the peloton, eyeing the top spot on the podium in stages two, five and eight.
"I think I'm ready for the sprints here," Haedo told Cyclingnews. "I'm struggling a little with the altitude here in Lake Tahoe because it's not too normal for me. But besides that, as soon as we get back to sea level, I can look for the stage two as a possible win."
Haedo won two stages in the 2006 edition while racing for the US-based team Toyota United. He went on to win another two stages during the 2007 edition where he secured the event's overall points classification while racing his first season with CSC. He also won one stage in 2008.
This year, he returns with a strong team that includes his brother and occasional lead-out man Lucas Sebastian, who recently recovered from a knee injury sustained following a crash in Paris-Nice earlier this year.
The team will be looking to deliver Haedo to a stage win during the stage two that is scheduled to begin in Squaw Valley, weather permitting, and end on the streets of Sacramento. Winter storms lead to the opening stage being cancelled and race organizers will announce any delays or course revisions to stage two a few hours prior to the start.
Other opportunities for a bunch sprint could present itself during stage five from Seaside to Paso Robles and the stage eight finale in Thousand Oaks. "There is also the stage in Paso Robles that is probably a good one and maybe the last stage because there are climbs but they are not that big," Haedo said.
The field has a number of quality sprinters including UCI World Road Champion Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervelo), Greg Henderson and Ben Swift (Sky ProCycling) and Matt Goss (HTC-Highroad) among others.
"I'm ready to sprint against the guys that are here," Haedo said. "It is no problem. I've raced against these sprinters before and we will see who is in the best shape at the moment, it is hard to say."
Last year, Haedo captured wins in Mumbai Cyclothon, Rund um Koln, Volta a Catalunya and Criterium du Dauphine. This year he took a stage win at Tirreno-Adriatico. His primary focus is on the UCI World Championships held in September in Copenhagen, Denmark.
"My main goal, if I have to say, will be the World Championships," Haedo said. "I'm not saying that I am going to win it, but like last year, I want to do everything right. It is also good to have a big goal like that at the end of the year to put all your energy into."
"Last year I tried to do everything right for the World Championships to see how a proper preparation for the world championship was," he added. "It worked pretty good for me because I only got dropped with a half lap to go. I can use the same system for this year. The course will be flat this year, maybe one little uphill, but nothing like it was in Australia, which was harder than anyone expected."