To succeed on BMC Racing, Brent Bookwalter has had to create opportunity on a team filled with stars. His work has paid off with a successful spring campaign, and Bookwalter now sits in sixth place overall, 48 seconds out of the lead at the Amgen Tour of California. Bookwalter hopes to continue his opportunistic streak in the coming stages.
"I had some good opportunity in the spring, trying to find those moments when I can step out of the team worker role, which on this team isn't easy," Bookwalter said before the start of stage 3. "I had a couple of those but didn't get a win and was close."
Bookwalter's near misses this spring include a 2nd place stage finish at the Tour of the Alps and 4th in the GC at the Tour de Yorkshire. He finished sixth in Monday's climbing stage, 37 seconds down on the lead group. With more options to moved up in the GC, including Thursday's climb up Mt. Baldy and Friday's time trial, Bookwalter is willing to bide his time before making a move for the yellow jersey.
"I'm a little farther behind than I would like to be to those guys at this point," Bookwalter said. "I'm in the hunt and looking for every moment I can coming ahead."
Bookwalter was third in last year's Amgen Tour of California, with strong performances in the climbing stage up Gibraltar Road (4th place) and in the Folsom time trial (5th place.) Leading up to this year's race he spent time doing course recon and simplifying his preparation.
"I feel strong. I was up in Big Bear training and seeing the course," Bookwalter said. "We've known all along that will be important, and I think it still will be.
"I haven't done [the wind tunnel] in a couple of years. I did it pretty heavy a few years ago and have tried to go back to the basics the last couple of years and just ride the bike."
Bookwalter also sits on the board of the Association of North American Professional Road Cyclists (ANAPRC), which helps advocate for professional cyclists on issues like the UCI's Extreme Weather Protocol. Toms Skujins' crash was top of mind Tuesday morning, and Bookwalter discussed the challenge of weighing a cyclist's desire to get back in a race against keeping the peloton, and the individual, safe.
"It's tough because it's such a fine balance," Bookwalter said. "You are ultimately deciding if you are going to pull a guy out of the race or off his bike. In those moments, when we crash, and you are OK to get back up, every second is really important. There is an urgency, and the race doesn't wait for you.
"That said, there has to be something in place to prevent guys from getting back on and hurting themselves and other guys in the race."
Bookwalter finished safely in the chase group in Wednesday's 159km stage from Santa Barbara to Santa Clarita. With Bookwalter and Sammy Sanchez both in the top 20, BMC will have multiple cards to play in the time trial and Mt. Baldy. Heading into the final stages of the race, Bookwalter is just happy to be in the game.