If Saxo Bank’s World Time Trial Champion Fabian Cancellara and Luxembourg Road Champion Andy Schleck have failed to impress at the Amgen Tour of California this week, it is because the pair are using the eight-day event to prepare for the Tour de France. According to Bjarne Riis both talents are still on target for their July endeavors.
“You can see by how we raced here that we are decent but we are not strong,” Riis told Cyclingnews. “Our next big objective is the Tour. We did not expect to win the race here but that is how it is.
“Both Andy and Fabian are aiming for the Tour de France,” he reiterated. “They are both on good targets for the Tour de France and that is the way it has to be. I think this race was perfect training actually. The only thing about it was the travel and time zone but other than that it is perfect for us to be here.”
The crowds went wild when Cancellara rolled off the start ramp sporting his world champion skin-suit at the stage seven 33.6 km time trial held in Los Angeles. His resume as a time trialist, not to mention his recent wins at the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, made him one of the favorites to win the individual event. However he crossed the line with a time of 43:26 minutes, down in 16th place.
“He went as hard as he could here today,” Riis said. “But we knew his form was not good enough to win today and it is not a big deal. He’s been taking some time off since the Classics. His next focus is the Tour, to do well in the prologue and to work for the team.”
Schleck showed signs of struggling on the decisive Bonny Doon Road ascent during the stage three road race, where he could not hold on to the lead climbers’ pace. He did, however, land himself in the significant breakaway for nearly 200 km during the queen stage six that finished atop Big Bear Lake.
“Andy wanted to try to be with the best on Bonny Doon but I said, ‘hey, common, easy’,” Riis said. “He kept pushing and I told him to go back to the gruppetto and to just take it easy. We talked about it after and he was worried what everyone was going to talk and write about it.
“But I didn’t expect him to follow the best, that was not the plan,” he added. “Now we are here for training and our goals are for later. Then he was fine. But I like the fact that he knows what he has to work on and that is good, that is perfect.”
Jens Voigt is currently sitting in fourth place in the overall classification, 1:12 minutes behind race leader Michael Rogers (HTC-Columbia), heading into the eighth and final stage’s circuit race in Thousand Oaks-Agoura Hills.