While the Tour of California has lost sprinters Nacer Bouhanni and Mark Cavendish to injury and illness, Katusha-Alpecin have confirmed its fast man Alexander Kristoff will lead the squad at the 12th edition of the race.
Making his debut at the race in 2010, Kristoff returned to California last year with Katusha taking out stage 7 in Santa Rosa. The Norwegian comes into the race in form having won a third career Eschborn-Frankfurt title although his team has reportedly told the 29-year-old to lose weight. Of Katusha-Alpecin's seven wins in 2016, Kristoff has taken six with victories at Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde, Tour of Oman and Etoile de Bessèges.
Katusha-Alpecin's team is built around Kristoff's speed with regular sprint train members Rick Zabel, Michael Mørkøv and Nils Politt all selected for the race. Last year's U23 time trial world champion Marco Mathis and Mads Würtz Schmidt, who was the 2015 champion in the same event, will bolster the sprint for Kristoff. The duo will also be looking to test themselves in the stage 6 Big Bear time trial.
By racing the Tour of California, Kristoff will miss his home races of the Tour of Norway and Tour des Fjords, which he has twice won overall, which also take place in May. He is likely to line out at the Criterium du Dauphine after the Tour of California in preparation for the Tour de France in July.
Colombian Jhonatan Restrepo hasn't raced since recording a DNF at the Vuelta al Pais Vasco but the neo-pro will aim to continue his good start to 2017 in California. The 22-year-old will lead the team's general classification hopes with the experienced Tiago Machado in support.
The 2017 edition of the Tour of California is the first in its history that it will be run at WorldTour level. There will be 12 WorldTour teams at the race, joined by three Pro-Continental, and the Jelly Belly-Maxxis and Rally Cycling Continental squads.
The Tour of California takes place May 14-20 with a 167km stage 1 in Sacramento and concludes with a 125km stage from Mountain High to Pasadena. Cyclingnews will have live coverage of the Tour of Coverage along with race reports, results, video highlights and exclusive news.
Katusha-Alpecin for 2017 Tour of California: Alexander Kristoff (Nor), Tiago Machado (Por), Marco Mathis (Ger), Michael Mørkøv (Den), Nils Politt (Ger), Jhonatan Restrepo (Col), Mads Würtz Schmidt (Den), and Rick Zabel (Ger).
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