Peter Sagan will lead the Tinkoff team at the Tour of California as he returns to defend his overall victory of 12 months ago. Last season, Sagan took a surprise win, beating Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-QuickStep) to the overall victory by three seconds.
The Slovakian was helped somewhat by the change in the time trial course but an impressive performance on Mt Baldy and bonus seconds on the final day gave him only his second ever GC victory – after his 2011 Tour de Pologne win. Sagan has been a regular at the Tour of California competing every season since he turned professional in 2010, and he holds the record for number of stage wins with 13.
Sagan is eager to return to the scene of his success but knows that the mountainous route does not lend its self to a second overall title.
“I'm really looking forward to coming back this race - it's a great event at which I have some really good memories," said Sagan when the Tinkoff team confirmed its squad.
“The Amgen Tour of California means a lot to me, it's a race I’ve liked competing at over the past years and it has now become a tradition in my program. Previously, in California, I've been very successful and I believe that, after a little rest, I will be back again at a good performance level. I would be happy if I am again competing for some strong results here. This year will be a very difficult edition, and not quite suited to my style but stage by stage we will see what we can do.”
Supporting Sagan in his endeavours will be young, up and coming Slovakian rider Erik Baska, who is making his debut as a professional this season, and his brother Juraj. Adam Blythe, Oscar Gatto, Michael Gogl, Michael Kolar and Nikolay Trusov will complete the line-up. With Sagan focusing on stage wins rather than another title, it falls to Gogl to shoulder the team’s GC ambitions.
“We then have a strong team around Peter to target stages with Blythe, Gatto, Trusov & Kolar back racing,” said directeur sportif Patxi Villa. “The race will also be used by many of the guys to touch base with race rhythm again and to restart their focus for the second half of the season. Peter has had a good break after the Classics with some mountain bike racing and some time at home so he’s relaxed and ready for the next stage of the season. I don’t expect him to come here on top form like last year but it will be a good race to build on for his coming goals.”
Tinkoff for the Tour of California: Peter Sagan, Erik Baska, Juraj Sagan, Adam Blythe, Oscar Gatto, Michael Gogl, Michael Kolar and Nikolay Trusov