Peter Sagan confirmed for Tour of California
Bora-Hansgrohe, Katusha-Alpecin and Trek-Segafredo announce squads
Three WorldTour teams – Trek-Segafredo, Katusha-Alpecin and Bora-Hansgrohe – have released their seven-man squads that will represent them at the upcoming Tour of California, starting on May 13.
In all, 17 teams will be represented at the race – 13 WorldTour squads and four Pro Continental outfits in Rally Cycling, Hagens Berman Axeon, Holowesko-Citadel and UnitedHealthcare – when the race lines up in Long Beach on Sunday May 13, faced with 1,038km over seven stages before finishing in Sacramento on Saturday May 19.
Last year's winner of the race, LottoNL-Jumbo's George Bennett, will not be there to defend his title. The New Zealander is instead at the Giro d’Italia, where he’s hoping to continue his development into a Grand Tour rider following his 10th place at the 2016 Vuelta a Espana.
Despite Bennett's absence, the race nevertheless boasts a slew of the world's biggest names in professional cycling, including world champion and 2015 California winner Peter Sagan (Bora Hansgrohe), sprint superstars Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data), Marcel Kittel (Katusha-Alpecin) and Caleb Ewan (Mitchelton-Scott), and overall contenders including 2013 winner Tejay van Garderen (BMC), young gun Egan Bernal (Team Sky), and AG2R La Mondiale's Romain Bardet, who finished second at the 2017 Tour de France, and returns to the Tour of California for the first time since 2012, when he was in his first year as a pro.
While those names are confirmed, not all of the names of the riders who will back them up in California have yet been released, but Cyclingnews will be sure to keep you updated as they come in.
Arguably the most exciting male pro rider in the world right now, Peter Sagan, boasts an almost-as-exciting squad of riders to try to help him repeat his overall victory at the 2015 edition of the Tour of California, when he just edged out Quick-Step's Julian Alaphilippe to win the race by three seconds.
Whether the climbs on stages 2 and 6, in particular, will be a challenge too far for Sagan, he's nevertheless likely to be in the mix at a number of stage finishes, hoping to add to his record haul of 16 stage victories at the race.
Besides, even if he can't win, he's certain to attract huge crowds at the stage starts and finishes, further cementing his reputation as a rock star of the cycling world.
Teammate Rafal Majka was second overall in 2017, but went on to use his good form to win the Tour of Slovenia a month later. The Polish rider will be hoping to go one better in California in the absence of defending champion George Bennett.
Australia's Jay McCarthy has already won the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race and a stage of the Pais Vasco this year, and the all-rounder will be one to watch for both stage wins and the overall title.
Bora-Hansgrohe for the Tour of California: Maciej Bodnar, Rafal Majka, Jay McCarthy, Daniel Oss, Pawel Poljanski, Juraj Sagan, Peter Sagan
California local Peter Stetina will be raring to go in Long Beach on May 13. The Santa Rosa-based rider placed 6th at the 2014 edition of the race, and 11th back in 2010, so will be able to count on the support of his Trek-Segafredo teammates.
Latvia's Toms Skujins will be hoping to put his horror crash on stage 2 last year behind him, and instead try to concentrate on a repeat of his two stage wins from the previous two editions of the race – and perhaps go one better than his second place in the mountains competition in 2015.
Kiel Reijnen, meanwhile, has ridden the race six times and his insight, along with that of 38-year-old road captain Grégory Rast, will be invaluable to the younger members of the squad, although, at just 23, Ruben Guerreiro is already a three-time veteran of the race.
Trek-Segafredo for the Tour of California: Jasper Stuyven, Toms Skujins, Peter Stetina, Nicola Conci, Kiel Reijnen, Gregory Rast, Ruben Guerreiro
Katusha-Alpecin will benefit from a three-pronged attack at the 2018 Tour of California, with Nathan Haas and Ian Boswell capable of taking on the GC, and Marcel Kittel ready to rival Mark Cavendish, Peter Sagan and Caleb Ewan in the sprints.
German fastman Kittel won two stages at Tirreno-Adriatico in March, and will hope to get a couple more victories in the bag in California to add to the victory he took on the opening stage of last year's race as he warms up for the Tour de France, where he'll be aiming to reach peak speed.
Nathan Haas has already won a stage and the points classification at the Tour of Oman this season. The Australian comes to the Tour of California for the third time in his career, during which he's developed as a real danger in shorter stage races.
After 7th overall in 2015, Ian Boswell then claimed 5th place overall in California while still with Team Sky last year, and placed third on stage 2 behind Rafal Majka and George Bennett – a stage that went some way to deciding the race.
Now with Katusha, Boswell has had a quiet start to his 2018 season, but has the ability to be on the podium in Sacramento on May 19.
Katusha-Alpecin for the Tour of California: Ian Boswell, Matteo Fabbro, Nathan Haas, Reto Hollenstein, Marcel Kittel, Nils Politt, Rick Zabel
The Tour of California Women's Race, meanwhile, takes place over three stages from May 17-19, and will be disputed between 15 teams, including Sunweb's Coryn Rivera, who grew up in Southern California's Orange County, and won the third stage into Sacramento last year en route to 6th place overall. The race was won by Boels-Dolman's Anna van der Breggen.
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By Josh Croxton