Italian sprinter Francesco Chicchi (Liquigas-Doimo) is looking to mark his territory in the bunch sprint at the opening stage of the Tour of California on Sunday. The 168km road race begins in Nevada City and is expected to end in a showdown between some of the fastest men in the world on the streets of Sacramento.
“Looking at the maps, it seems tomorrow might be the only chance for sprinters,” Chicchi told Cyclingnews. “I hope for the best and will look for other opportunities later in the week. We are here to do our best no matter what.”
On paper, the Amgen Tour of California’s opening stage is the only promising day for the sprinters. The route is predominantly downhill and finishes outside Capitol Park in Sacramento. Ten-time Tour de France stage winner, Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia) is the odds-on favourite to win the sprint. If the new Western-themed paint job on Chicchi’s Cannondale is any indication, there could be a new sheriff in town come sundown tomorrow.
“It’s been 25 days that I haven’t raced so I am in good shape and rested,” Chicchi said. “I think my chances for a stage win are pretty good even against riders like [Tom] Boonen, [Mark] Cavendish and [Theo] Boss.”
Following stage one, the race heads into the mountains where Chicchi’s role will revert to helping his teammates Manuel Quinziato, Peter Sagan and Brian Vanborg.
“My job is to make it hard so that we can finish in a sprint on the other days,” Chicchi said. “Otherwise, my role will be to help the other guys on the team.”
Chicchi kicked off his racing season at the Tour of San Luis in Argentina in January. The South American race offered the Liquigas-Doimo squad a break from Europe’s harsh winter months.
“After the winter we had in Europe this year, it was not easy get in good shape,” Chicchi said. “I am stronger than I was at the beginning of the season in Argentina because I raced in the Qatar, the Three Days of De Panne and Gent-Wevelgem. This year, I would love to race in the Tour de France but with the team that we have, you never know. Any races I do will be a good opportunity for me, especially a Grand Tour.”
The Liquigas-Doimo team for the Amgen Tour of California includes Francesco Chicchi, Manuel Quinziato, Peter Sagan, Francesco Bellotti, Davide Cimolai, Ivan Santaromita, Brian Vandborg and Elia Viviani.