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South-to-North switch livens Tour of California

Laura Weislo
May 20, 2013, 16:40,
May 20, 2013, 19:34
First Edition Cycling News, Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Tour of California
The peloton heads away from the Golden Gate Bridge.

The peloton heads away from the Golden Gate Bridge.

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Continental teams impress race organisers

The Tour of California is a wrap for 2013, and race organisers are patting themselves on the back for crafting a south-to-north course that challenged riders on each of the eight days of racing.

Medalist Sports managing partner Jim Birrell told Cyclingnews that his group had responded to previous feedback from the riders and team directors when creating the route, which featured two mountainous opening stages, three windswept transitional stages, an unusually long and difficult time trial followed by the first Northern California summit finish on Mt. Diablo and a fast finish into Santa Rosa.

"The fact that we had a new stage winner every day until this last day speaks loudly to how the competition and the courses were on a daily basis," Birrell said.

Stage winners included Vacansoleil's Lieuwe Westra from a narrow breakaway, Janier Acevedo (Jamis-Hagens Berman) on the Palm Springs Tramway climb, Peter Sagan (Cannondale) and Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp) in the sprint stages, Jens Voigt (RadioShack) in the stage into Avila Beach that was split by crosswinds, overall winner Tejay van Garderen (BMC) and Leopold König (NetApp-Endura) on Diablo.

One thing that stood out this past week was the performance of the Continental teams, one of which, for the first time in Tour of California history, was able to earn a spot on the final overall podium - Jamis-Hagens Berman with Acevedo.

Domestic Continental teams also claimed three stage podium finishes: 5-hour Energy p/b Kenda's Francisco Mancebo was second on stage 1 and his teammate James Stemper was awarded the most courageous rider jersey. Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies' sprinter Ken Hanson was second on stage 4, and Acevedo, in addition to his stage win and third place overall, was second on the Diablo stage. Bontrager claimed the best young rider jersey overall with Lawson Craddock, and Bissell led the mountains classification from start to finish with Carter Jones, and Jason McCartney was most courageous on the final stage.

These performances are important for securing invitations to Medalist's other major races: the Tour of Utah, USA Pro Cycling Challenge in Colorado, and Tour of Alberta, and Birrell noticed.

"Every one of the Continental teams came prepared and animated the field on a daily basis. The performance of the Continental teams and our development squad (Bontrager) were impressive all week long."

For Jamis Hagens-Berman director Sebastian Alexandre, the results of the week were a morale boost for him and his team, which failed to earn invitations to any of the top races in 2012.

"I am thrilled with how all the guys came together and performed in the big show this week," Alexandre said. "Janier was superb. He is an exceptional talent. The rest of the guys stepped their game up a level, gave their all in service of the team, and really showed the world what Team Jamis-Hagens Berman can do."

As much as Medalist influenced the difficulty of the 2013 parcours, the weather turned out to be one of the key factors as searing heat scorched riders on the first two stages, in particular the climb in Palm Springs which resulted in several riders being treated for heat stroke. The south-north direction also put the racers battling the prevailing breeze for much of the route, although the strong coastal winds only influenced the outcome of the race on stage 5 to Avila Beach, when the WorldTour teams shattered the peloton into six separate echelons.

Aside from the heat in Palm Springs, the only stage that seemed to border on extreme was the 31.9km time trial that included a steep 3km climb at the finish - all after five hard days of racing.

"It was hard, and everybody knew it was going to be hard," Cannondale's Ted King said. "If you want to make a good, memorable race like Amgen does, by all means make it hard."

Craddock agreed that the San Jose course was difficult the entire time, "But hard in cycling isn't really hard in everything else. That's what makes this sport so beautiful, I think one of the hardest sports in the world. During an incredibly difficult stage race like this, to throw in a time trial like this, it's still a bike race."

Birrell said his team would re-assemble in the coming months and begin drafting a plan for the 2014 edition of the race, "and see how we can match or beat this year".

"The nice thing about California is it's so large, and there are plenty of places to go to test these riders."

(Pat Malach contributed to this report)

cthenn More than 1 year ago
"The nice thing about California is it's so large, and there are plenty of places to go to test these riders." Please ToC, include at least one stage in the Eastern Sierra! From what I saw, the crowds in SoCal are not that great, so why not put the race into some of the most beautiful spots in California? Anywhere along 395 there are so many challenging roads, even if you use the main highway, the backdrops cannot be beat! Also, Diablo should be an annual tradition. No one in CA supports cycling more than the SF Bay Area!
Crab71 More than 1 year ago
It's call the Tour of California, not the the tour of the SF Bay Area or the tour of NorCal or the tour of the central valley. Oh there's this city called Davis maybe you've heard of it? You know the most friendliest cycling city in America.
djconnel More than 1 year ago
Amgen sponsors the race, though, and until it's someone else paying the bills, I think that implies the race needs to pass within driving distance of Amgen HQ in Thousand Oaks. You could get an epic race going from Oregon down to SF, for example, but I don't think that's going to fly with the money.
cthenn More than 1 year ago
That's fine, I don't care, I graduated from UCD, I have no problem with a stage in Davis. Never said they shouldn't race there. SoCal just doesn't care (for the most part) about cycling, as much as NorCal does, Davis included.
cthenn More than 1 year ago
Badly worded...Davis included in "NorCal", not that they don't care.
Crab71 More than 1 year ago
Really!?!? SoCal doesn't care about cycling?!?! Were you at any of the stages in SoCal? Are you an authority on the cycling fan base in California? If not then you have no right to judge. Oh by the way good luck to the 49ers in the Superbowl... Uh wait a minute my bad.....
volosong More than 1 year ago
Eastern Sierra? Remember Tahoe and what happened there? If there was a lack of attendance in SoCal this year, it was because it hit during the week when most people work. Only the first stage was on the opening weekend. When they run the North-to-South route, it hits SoCal on the closing weekend.
cthenn More than 1 year ago
Remember what happened in Palm Desert? Like a week ago? 115 degrees, go race a mountain, guys! Extreme weather is extreme weather, and just as unlikely (supposedly) it was to have 115 down there, it is just as unlikely to be cold and snowing in May in Tahoe. Also, there is an easy solution to any weather potential. The whole Long Valley area from Bishop south is only about 3,000-4,000 feet, so they could cut off any portion of the route that included climbs up to higher elevations, just like they did in the Giro this year.
Crab71 More than 1 year ago
Not to mention that the race also started on Mother's Day this year. Nice scheduling AEG.
Pete Underdown More than 1 year ago
..yes, but who says mothers don't like bike racing? My mother, who just turned 87, would define the perfect Mother's day as children coming to visit and watch live coverage of Giro or TOC together!
avanti More than 1 year ago
The race should be moved back to February. Avoid the heat. Cold weather in California is not like the biting cold of the spring clasics in Europe this year; I bet a Feb race would attract more pro-tour teams.
mmckelleb More than 1 year ago
If the race had gone north to south the heat would not have been an issue. I've attended each of the past three would be difficukt to convince me the crowds I witnessed on Baldy weren't larger than Diablo. It was as close to an exodus to Mecca as I'm likely to ever experience. I'm not from SoCal, I don't have a dog in that fight, but the crowds down south were huge.....massive. I like noth to south better but understand variety is the spice of life.