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North American teams prep for Amgen Tour of California overseas

The peloton in action during stage four of the 2009 Amgen Tour of California.

The peloton in action during stage four of the 2009 Amgen Tour of California. (Image credit: Jonathan Devich)

Several North American-based Continental teams are opting to travel to Europe, Asia and South America to prepare for the highly anticipated Amgen Tour of California held from May 16-23.

The International Cycling Union (UCI) calendar offers a selection of high caliber stage races that begin with the UCI 2.2 Vuelta Mexico Telmex held in central Mexico from April 18-25, UCI 1.1 Tro-Bro Leon in France on April 18, UCI 2.2 Tour de Korea held from April 22-May 2 and the UCI 2.2 Le Tour de Bretagne Cycliste-Trophee des Granitiers held in France from April 25-May 1.

Team Type 1 and SpiderTech powered by Planet Energy will be heading south to the Vuelta Mexico Telmex this weekend. The eight-stage race offers higher altitude and prime mountainous terrain suitable for gaining top end fitness.

SpiderTech will field an eight-man squad that includes Francois Parisien, Keven Lacombe, Martin Gilbert, Bruno Langlois, Lucas Euser, David Boily, Flavio De Luna and Guillaume Boivin.

"Mexico is UCI sanctioned and therefore important for our team," said the squad's directeur sportif Steve Bauer. "The race is tough, competitive and will provide a challenging preparation for our riders beginning one month before Tour of California and finishing just less than three weeks before that race and we believe this will be the ideal race prior to that. After Vuelta Telmex some of the riders doing this race may opt for Joe Martin as final preparation for the Tour of California or may prepare by training."

Team Type 1 also will be sending a squad to compete in the Vuelta Mexico Telmex. Its riders include Javier Megias, Valeriy Kobzarenko, Davide Frattini, Chris Jones, Aldo Ino Ilesic, Michael Creed, Shawn Milne and Scott Stewart.

"It is UCI 2.2 and it's eight days long," said Vassili Davidenko. "There are not many UCI events like that in North America where you compete against the riders from around the globe. The event has great history, is well organized and well surrounded by international media. This is another chance for us to do well at a UCI-sanctioned event and promote our campaign to help people affected by diabetes.

"Javier Megias will be the only Type 1 diabetic rider at the Vuelta Mexico," he added. "We are very excited to be back racing in Mexico, especially after winning this event in the past. Besides, this race fits properly into our preparation for the Tour of California and helps us to reach our target of becoming Pro Continental in 2011."

Kelly Benefit Strategies will field three teams across the globe at the Tro-Bro Leon and Le Tour de Bretagne Cycliste-Trophee des Granitiers in France and Tour de Korea. Directeur Sportif Jonas Carney believes that racing overseas is the best way to prepare his riders for the Amgen Tour of California and the TD Bank Philadelphia International Cycling Championships held in June. Furthermore, the international program is designed to build experience toward its goal of becoming Pro Continental.

"This year we will race in at least five Asian races, go to Europe twice, and do at least one event in South America," Carney said. "It's all about our team and our riders reaching the next level. The US schedule consists of roughly sixty percent criteriums. Our stage races are only three to five days long and usually include 90 minute criteriums and short time trials.

"As a result, we don't feel that the US schedule can properly prepare our guys to compete in a real stage race against the best in the world," he added. "This year, by the time we reach the Amgen Tour of California, we will have completed six international stage races. All of our riders will have done three of these, with each race covering over 900 kilometres and lasting six to eleven days. Hopefully it pays off!"

Jelly Belly presented by Kenda's directeur sportif Danny van Haute will field a roster at the Tour de Korea. The team will include Brad Huff, Kiel Reijnen, Will Dickenson, Will Routley, Bernard Van Ulden and Mike Friedman.

"The Jelly Belly presented by Kenda team is going to the Tour de Korea because it is a 10-day stage race and every day is between 180 to 250 kilometres," said Van Haute. "What a better way to get ready for the Amgen Tour of California."

The 2009 National Racing Calendar (NRC) champions Jamis-Sutter Home presented by Colavita was not invited to compete in the Amgen Tour of California this year but they also have chosen to take a trip down to the UCI 2.2 Tour of Santa Catarina held between April 21-25 in Brazil. The roster includes Alejandro Borrajo, Guido Palma, Jamey Driscoll, Jackie Simes and Demis Aleman.

"Our team just got invited to do the Tour of Santa Catarina which is the hilliest race in Brazil," said directeur sportif Sebastian Alexandre. "We are looking forward to a stage win with Alejandro Borrajo. We wanted to do some UCI races and try to expand our team overseas if we can. Jamis is a worldwide company so they are very happy and proud when we are invited to participate in the events were we are invited. It's an honor to us that our team name is out there and people are interested to have us at their races."

Races scheduled on the US calendar during the month of April and May include the NRC Sunny King Criterium held on Saturday, April 17, the UCI-sanctioned Tour of the Battenkill held on Sunday, April 18, the SRAM Tour of the Gila held between April 28-May 2 and the Joe Martin Stage Race held May 6-9 in Arkansas.