Dave Zabriskie finished second to Levi Leipheimer in the 2009 Amgen Tour of California but is aiming to go one better this year after stage three and four were announced by race organisers today. Stage three takes the riders from San Francisco to Santa Cruz, while stage four travels from San Jose to Modesto.
However, Zabriskie believes that the final three stages will be critical if he is to topple Levi Leipheimer from three years of domination at the race. Last year Zabriskie finished behind Leipheimer on every stage but was his closest challenger, finishing 36 seconds down in the final overall classification.
"I'd like to in top form for California," Zabriskie told Cyclingnews from his home in Gerona, Spain.
"I'll see most of the stages through reconnaissance and I'm 100 percent sure I'll check out the time trial on stage seven and the Big Bear stage."
Winning the Tour of California will mark Zabriskie's first major goal for 2010, before aiming to hold his form through until the Tour de France in July. However, the American isn't willing to put all his eggs in one basket. "It's a big goal. There are other ones but this is a big goal for me, the team and a lot of American riders. It's kind of like America's Super Bowl of cycling and it gets a lot of attention. I really enjoy racing it.
"Cali isn't going to be easy but I'll take it day-by-day there and see how I'm going. It's still too early to call. All I know for certain is that those last three days look pretty difficult. The time trial is a little different, too. The last day is really hard; it's one of the hardest days I've seen for a finishing circuit."
Zabriskie is the reigning US time trial champion and believes that racing against the clock could be the one area where he could have an edge over Leipheimer, who has built his three wins in the race on strong performances against the clock. Last year Leipheimer put just eight seconds into Zabriskie in the race's long time trial and less than two seconds in the opening prologue.
"It's hard to say if the time trial will be the most important stage, a lot of things can happen in the race, but most likely it will be important. Levi is a formidable competitor and he can be good on a variety of climbs. However I think he had that time trial in Solvang really dialled in. Hopefully the change of venue in the time trial will lean towards my strengths a little more."