Tour of California: Kennaugh rebuilding form in American race

British champion looking for opportunities, but says he's not a GC contender

Despite being included in a list of Tour of California general classification contenders by riders like BMC's Rohan Dennis, British road champion Peter Kennaugh (Team Sky) insists he's only at the race this week to rebuild his form after illness, and to perhaps look for an opportunity or two along the way.

Kennaugh started his season in Australia, where he won the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race and finished second overall behind teammate Chris Froome in the Herald and Sun Tour. Since then his results have fallen off and he's looking at the California race as kick start the second half of his 2016 campaign.

"I had a bit of a slow April, a bit of illness and I've just struggled to get any form really," he told Cyclingnews before the start of stage 2 in Pasadena. "So I'm sort of looking ahead to the Tour de Suisse and eight solid days of racing there, and then I go to altitude camp, so hopefully I will be good for there."

Kennaugh is currently 48th overall among a large group of riders that is 24 seconds off the ace of leader Ben King (Cannondale Pro Cycling), but he brushed off the idea that he could potentially win this eight-day 2.HC race that started Sunday in San Diego and finishes May 22 in Sacramento.

"No, I wouldn't put myself in that group at all, judging off of what I've done the last two months," he said. "I had two weeks off the bike in April, and I've just been building up since then really."

Kennaugh finished 49th in Milan-San Remo but was then knocked out of racing by illness, returning to competition at the end of April for the three-day Tour de Yorkshire, where he finished 37th on the final day and 37th overall.

"Tour de Yorkshire was OK," he said. "First race back kind of thing. I felt alright to be honest."

Tuesday's climb to the top of Gibraltar Road during the Tour of California's queen stage will provide a good test to see where Kennaugh's form is at the moment. The final 12-kilometre climb is certain to shake up the general classification, but Kennaugh once again downplayed his chances for success when asked about the stage.

"It's just a case of seeing where I am at and seeing what I've got," he said. "Even if I get dropped I'll carry on and go full gas at the top. It's good training and a good workout.

"We'll see how it goes. That stage to Lake Tahoe [during stage 5 on Thursday] will be tough with the altitude, especially if you haven't done altitude all year. So that will be an interesting stage as well. It looks a lot harder than last year's race on the whole."

Aside from Tuesday's test, Kennaugh said he hasn't ear-marked any other stages as possible opportunities to fly the Team Sky colours on the Tour of California podium.

"Like I said, I'm just taking it day by day and enjoying the relaxed sort of atmosphere and a nice bit of fun bike racing really."

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