Merckx tips James Oram for the Tour of California overall

Bissell Development Team isn't going into the upcoming Tour of California with the sole goal of gaining experience racing among a world-class peloton. The American continental squad is aiming to have a top overall performance with its all-rounder James Oram.

"We're getting excited about the Tour of California," the team's director, Axel Merckx told Cyclingnews. "I think we have a really well-balanced team for the race and we have Oram for the overall."

Oram is 21-years-old and comes from Auckland, New Zealand. Merckx noticed his potential as a general classification rider two years ago and signed him to the former Bontrager-Livestrong Team for two season, and then brought him over to Bissell this year.

He showed good early-season form on the North American circuit with a win at the San Dimas Stage Race's uphill time trial followed by a second place overall at the National Racing Calendar's Redlands Bicycle Classic.

Racing against some of the best overall contenders in the world, such as the 2012 Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky), will be a much bigger challenge. Merckx believes his youngsters are not only capable of performing well in the overall but also on a daily basis as well - in breakaways and sprints, on the climbs and in the young rider category.

The team's roster also includes promising sprinter Nicolai Brochner, climber Clement Chevrier along with Tanner Putt, Gregory Daniel, Ryan Eastman, Tao Geoghegan Hart and Ruben Zepuntke.

"We have Brochner for the sprints, Chevrier for the climbs and all the other guys will have the opportunity to get in the breakaways and try to show their talent," Merckx said.

Merckx believes the overall contenders will sort themselves out early in the week with the time trial held on Stage 2 and Mount Diablo finish on Stage 3, which could allow more opportunities for his development team in the following stages.

"We're going to focus on day-to-day stages. The GC might start to be established very early on and that might give more room for breakaways to go further later in the week."

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