Alex Candelario (Kelly Benefit Strategies-OptumHealth) is aiming for a sprint win, or at least a podium placing, during the eighth and final stage of the Amgen Tour of California. The American is not alone, however, as a handful of top domestic sprinters look forward to a bunch sprint on the streets of Thousand Oaks.
"The team will work for me on the last stage," Candelario told Cyclingnews.
"Mike Friedman is dealing with an injury right now and not on the best form, unfortunately. The last stage has one category four climb and it’s steep but other than that it is rolling hills. I think after Baldy, there will be a few teams without stage victories and they will want to work hard to make that happen."
Candelario surprised with a fourth place in the stage five sprint into Paso Robles. He freelanced his way through the field on the wheels of other more established sprinters to come up with a respectable result. He hopes to improve on that performance in stage eight.
"I would be pretty stoked if I got on the podium here because I’m getting older year-by-year and there are fewer chances and shots at getting on these podiums," Candelario said. "It would be really big for the team because we don’t have a really big budget so it would be a huge deal. We have to be realistic - but I feel confident that I can get on the podium on Sunday."
Candelario wil however face stiff competition from the other US fast men yet to be rewarded in the Californian sprints. Anibal Borrajo (Jamis-Sutter Home), Ken Hanson (Jelly Belly p/b Kenda), Luca Damiani (Kenda/5-hour Energy) and Frank Pipp (Bissell) are all ones to watch.
"I hope to be able to do something tomorrow," Hanson said.
"I wasn’t myself the first few days of the race. We don’t have a dominant sprinter like Mark Cavendish here, but I think we have more depth in the sprint field all together. The stages have been so hard and the top ten riders at the finish aren’t necessarily the same guys you would see in a normal bunch kick. I hope tomorrow will be a bunch kick because it would be nice to finish the race like that."
Aside from the locals, top sprinters like Juan Jose Haedo (Saxo Bank SunGard), Matt Goss (HTC-Highroad), Daniel Oss (Liquigas-Cannondale), Robert Forster (UnitedHealthcare) and Oscar Friere (Rabobank) are all hungry having missed out in earlier opportunities in the race. Frank Pipp played down his own chances but was optimistic that anything could happen.
"We have myself and Jay Thomson," Pipp said. "I wouldn’t call either of us pure field sprinters on this level, but if you can hold the wheels onto the finish it is so fast, you put yourself in for a good chance to get a good result. [That said] Tomorrow is supposed to be a hard day."