Phil Zajicek (Fly V Australia) was the highest placed American rider of the seven UCI-registered Continental teams invited to the Amgen Tour of California this year. The Boulder native didn't get the stage win he was hoping for but walked away from the event pleased with a 10th place, surrounded by ProTour contenders, in the overall classification.
"I finished in 10th and they are all ProTour riders in front of me, except for Rory [Sutherland]," said Zajicek. "I'm really happy with my GC place. This is by far the hardest race this year and these guys have been doing big stuff in Europe all year and that has helped them so much.
"I'm happy to be where I am and 11th overall is great but it doesn't really mean a whole lot. I was really hoping for a stage win."
Zajicek spent most of his early season preparing specifically for America's biggest stage race. At the end of April, he placed fourth overall in the Tour of the Gila in Silver City, New Mexico. The National Racing Calendar (NRC) series event included six ProTour riders with RadioShack's Levi Leipheimer, Lance Armstrong, Jason McCartney and Garmin-Transitions' Dave Zabriskie, Tom Danielson and Thomas Peterson.
At the Amgen Tour of California, Zajicek proved his form against the climbers during stage three where he finished with the front selection behind a breakaway of three riders that included Leipheimer, Zabriskie and eventual overall winner Michael Rogers (HTC-Columbia).
"I really came here to win a stage but I am very happy with how everything has gone for me on the climbs this week," said Zajicek. "I'm happy with how everything went. Every stage has been really hard but we haven't had any big selections, other than on Bonny Doon Road when there were the three guys up the road."
During the 'queen' stage six, Zajicek tackled the final ascent to Big Bear Lake with the lead group of 20 riders, attacking several times before the final sprint to the finish line won by Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Doimo).
"I felt like I had a good chance of winning on Big Bear but I messed up the sprint," Zajicek explained. "I attacked a couple of times over the climb and then coming into the sprint, I felt like it was a good finish for me but I waited too long. You can't wait with a guy like Sagan around."
Zajicek was hoping for a strong performance during the 33.6km time trial held in Los Angeles, where he placed a respectable 23rd, more than two-and-a-half minutes behind stage winner Tony Martin (HTC-Columbia).
"I'm a little disappointed with how the time trial went, I was hoping for more," Zajicek added. "I was 23rd, which was not horrible but I thought I would be faster than I was."
The Amgen Tour of California was the biggest and most prestigious race of the year for the Continental teams who participated but now it's time for Zajicek to focus on Canada's Tour de Beauce held in Quebec next month.
"When I get home I'm going to spend some time organising my garage and do some yard work," Zajicek said. "All the one-day guys have Philadelphia to look forward to. I will not do that race but I will be racing in Beauce next. I'm also looking at Cascade Classic, Tour of Utah and US road nationals as my season goals."