Canada’s sole UCI Continental team SpiderTech-Planet Energy will make its Amgen Tour of California debut at this year’s event, from May 16-23. The highly sought-after invitation to America’s top stage race is a step in the right direction for a team that has its sights set on progressing to Professional Continental ranks in 2011, according to directeur sportif Steve Bauer.
“It is extremely important for the evolution of our team,” said Bauer. “The opportunity will give our athletes an excellent chance to challenge at the highest level in North America and it will give our sponsors the recognition they deserve. It gives our riders the competition they need to progress as athletes. The invitation is definitely a big positive in our bid to reach Professional Continental for 2011.”
Last year the team made an impression on the professional peloton when its sprinter Martin Gilbert won the seventh and final stage of the Tour of Missouri. Bauer is confident the team’s strong performance in Missouri last year helped garner its California invitation.
“Absolutely,” he said. “Our team was competitive in Missouri every day and we won a stage. Tour of California will certainly be more difficult for us to grab a stellar performance however I have confidence in our athletes and their talent to raise to the occasion.”
The squad recently participated in the Vuelta Ciclista al Uruguay where Gilbert brought the team a stage eight victory. The team is scheduled to compete in the Vuelta Mexico Telmex, Tour of the Gila and Joe Martin Stage Race as preparation for the Tour of California.
“We have been preparing with the Amgen Tour of California goal in mind since last November,” Bauer said. “We have been entering as many solid stage races as possible to get our riders the necessary amount of competition to be ready for Amgen Tour of California.”
There are 16 teams participating in the event including seven ProTour teams in RadioShack, Garmin-Transitions, Saxo Bank, Rabobank, Quick Step, Liquigas-Doimo and HTC-Columbia. Professional Continental teams include Cervélo TestTeam and BMC Racing Team along with Continental teams UnitedHealthcare, Team Type 1, Fly V Australia, Jelly Belly, Kelly Benefit Strategies and Bissell.
“We are going in prepared with a positive, competitive attitude,” Bauer said. “Our riders will be focused and take every day as an opportunity to win. I do not believe we can pretend to be a general classification contender, but we certainly have a few fast finishers in our group that with some good timing on a stage can surprise.”