The Amgen Tour of California is in the process of sending out invitations to prospective teams for 2012. The American stage race has already announced its host cities and race dates for next year and will confirm the final list of teams by the end of February.
The race is likely to be made of 16 teams, eight from the WorldTour and the remaining slots divided between the ProContinental and Continental ranks.
"In terms of what we're looking for, just like the route, we're aiming to raise the bar each year and make it more competitive," said race organiser Kristin Bachochin.
Although Bachochin would not confirm which teams were invited, she did add that QuickStep was "likely" to attend. The Belgian team was disappointed to miss out in 2011 but has signed three-time race winner Levi Leipheimer from RadioShack since then. The race starts close to his home in California.
However, Bachochin did state that the race was looking to grow, pointing to the new 2012 route as an example of the race's ambitions.
"Realistically we have the toughest course to date for 2012 and similar to that, we want the best possible athletes to race here, too. Were in the process of inviting our teams, and we should have that side of things finalised by the end of February," she said.
Last year, over half of the field came from US-registered teams, and although RadioShack is no longer listed in the US and HTC-Highroad is no more, Bachochin is confident that the cream of the US crop will attend, and she stressed the importance of showcasing up and coming talent as a priority both for the race and the health of cycling in the US.
"It's extremely important that US talent from the up and coming ranks is here as this will help the sport grow. It's great that there are other races in the US as well as it showcases and demonstrates how much the sport is growing for everyone," she said.
"The sport here is healthy, just look at the races from Colorado to Utah and us. That's really impressive, and I'm sure that US Cycling would like to see more."
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