Kelly Benefit Strategies recons Tour of California finale

American Continental squad hopeful for 2010 invite

The Kelly Benefit Strategies team spent the final training day of its Oxnard, California pre-season camp reconnoitring the 33 kilometre circuit to be utilized in the Amgen Tour of California's eighth and concluding stage.

Thirteen members of the US Continental team spent four hours on Saturday riding to the circuit, completing one lap, and then returning to their home base for the training camp, a beachfront house in Oxnard.

While much of the country is still facing frigid and snowy weather, the Kelly Benefit Strategies team enjoyed another day of ample sunshine and warm weather which characterized most of its eight-day sojourn in Southern California.

Some of the riders tested their early season form on the climb of Mulholland Highway, the circuit's stiff ascent which Tour of California riders will negotiate four times. Jesse Anthony, new to the team in 2010, earned bragging rights by being the first Kelly Benefit Strategies rider to crest the top.

"The course today was beautiful," Anthony told Cyclingnews. "Based on some of the other courses I've raced on I think it's one of the hardest I've seen in the US.
It's going to super-selective.

"From watching the race in the past it seems like the last stage is pretty controlled by the leader's team, but if a guy like Andy Schleck or another super-good climber is close to the overall it's going to be hard for a team to control."

"It isn't an easy circuit race the GC guys can sit in on," Scott Zwizanski told Cyclingnews. "I think there were five or six kilometres of rollers after the [Mulholland Highway] climb before you descend, so any time you climb and then go over rollers before you have a rest that's definitely an opportunity for riders to put distance into others. There's potential for a shake-up, that's for sure."

While entries for Continental teams in the Tour of California have yet to be confirmed, Kelly Benefit Strategies is structuring its early months of racing to best prepare its riders for the American stage race.

Kelly Benefit Strategies was denied a Tour of California entry in 2009, but the team believes that its palmares in 2009, particularly three stage race victories at international UCI events, coupled with an even more ambitious international presence in the early months of 2010 will be enough to gain an invite.

"We're doing everything we can on our end to earn an invitation," Jonas Carney, the team's performance director, told Cyclingnews. "I feel confident that we're going to get in this year and will be really disappointed if we didn't.

"We're full-steam ahead to get ready for that race. We'll be skipping some US races to specifically go race in Europe and prepare properly for the Tour of California. The only way to be prepared properly is to race internationally. We can't just wait around and hope for an invitation."

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