Champion System chasing breakaways in Tour of California debut

Champion System will make its debut at the Amgen Tour of California this year with an eight-rider roster representing three continents.

Chad Beyer, Chris Butler and Canadian national road champion Ryan Roth will make up the North American contingent of the Chinese-registered UCI Pro Continental team. They'll join Irish national champion Matt Brammeier, Slovakia's Gregor Gazvoda and Bobbie Traksel of the Netherlands on the roster. Asian riders Chun Kai Feng of Chinese Taipei, and Kin San Wu of Hong Kong, both former national champions, will race in the states for the first time.

Notably missing from the roster is Craig Lewis, a former World Tour rider with Slipstream and HTC-HighRoad. Lewis broke his elbow during La Flèche Brabançonne in Belgium on April 10 and will skip the tour.

"It's a big disappointment to us," Beamon said. "It was a big goal and target last year to get Craig in this race. And certainly we went into the start of the season at training camp with the high hope that we would get the start, and, you know, some big expectations on Craig."

Beamon said that although Lewis can ride, his form is not very high at the moment and the two of them made the tough decision to sit this one out.

"This race would be so much pressure on him that I'm afraid we could hurt his season if we tried to push him into it," Beamon said. "So we kind of agreed that probably the best - albeit disappointing - solution was to just pass."

Lacking a realistic GC podium threat, the Champion System team will focus on stage wins and possibly chase some jerseys. With no pure sprinter or time trial specialist, stage wins will have to come from breakaways, and Champion System hopes to be well represented.

"Our approach is going to be a little bit more optimistic, because across the board, they're all good all-around riders," Beamon said. "They're all capable of getting their nose in the breakaways and turning them into something. So from a stage perspective, that's what we'll be looking at."

The team will be looking especially hard at the early stages at the very southern end of the state, Beamon said.

"Certainly the first day is never as controlled as it's going to become," Beamon said. "We've been looking at the first three stages and there are some lumps in all of them. And for our guys they seem to be good parcours.

"We're thinking that those first few stages could be good opportunities to kind of open things up a bit," he continued. "It could potentially be the thing where people are looking down the road. You know, breakaways succeed because things happen that people don't expect. So we'll try to make things happen."

And when the roads turn uphill, the team can throw former BMC rider Butler into the mix.

"Butler's really shown some good form in the hills in the last month," Beamon said. "I hate to call him a GC guy, because I'm realistic enough to know that we're not playing for a podium there. But I think he can put in a strong performance, and maybe with the right break get a top 10 put of it."

The stage 6 individual time trial, with its steep uphill finish, should favor Butler as well. "As far as the impact on his GC," Beamon said, "it's actually a better scenario than a big blast along the coast."

No matter what happens, with Champion System stepping up as a jersey supplier and a sponsor for the race, the team intends to make the most of the eight days of racing in California.

"We've been traipsing all over the world," Beamon said. "So the North Americans are especially excited to race closer to home in North America's big show. Some of them have done it and some of them haven't, but they all know the reputation of what a great race it is. So they're all excited about that."

Champion System Tour of California Roster

Chad Beyer (USA), Chris Butler (USA), Matt Brammeier (Irl), Chun Kai Feng (Tpe), Gregor Gazvoda (Slo), Ryan Roth (Can), Bobbie Traksel (Ned) and Kin San Wu (Hkg).

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