USA Cycling names long list for Tour of California team

USA Cycling has released the list of riders under consideration for the national team that will compete at the Amgen Tour of California May 12-18. This year marks the first time since the inaugural race in 2006 that Tour of California organisers have invited a US national team, which is allowed under UCI regulations that provide host countries of WorldTour races the opportunity to give a spot to the home team.

The national team will join 13 WorldTour and five Pro Continental squads in the 2019 edition.

At 29, sprinters Travis McCabe (Floyd's Pro Cycling) and Justin Williams (Legion of Los Angeles) are the oldest riders on the relatively young roster, while Aevolo 21-year-olds Tyler Stites, Alex Hoehn and Michael Hernandez are the youngest riders on the long list for the final composite squad that will line up at the start in Sacramento.

Also on the list released Friday are Keegan Swirbul (Floyd's Pro Cycling), Sam Boardman (Wildlife Generation-Maxxis) and Brendan Rhim (Arapahoe-Hincapie) all 23, as well Arapahoe-Hincapie's Miguel Bryon, 24, and Tanner Putt, 26. The initial list of 10 riders will be whittled down to seven for the race.

"As we move towards the 2020 Olympics, we will be looking for more opportunities like the Amgen Tour of California to showcase the US national team and the amazing depth of talent we have in our riders," USA Cycling President and CEO Rob DeMartini said in a statement released with today's announcement. "There is nothing more inspiring than seeing our riders on the attack in their red, white and blue kits."

Riders whose WorldTour trade teams or Pro Continental trade teams are competing in the race are not eligible for the national team, limiting the USA Cycling roster options to riders from the Continental and amateur domestic elite ranks.

"The Amgen Tour of California is the biggest race on US soil, and we are happy to be able to give the opportunity to some of our up-and-coming riders to compete alongside the best in the world and gain valuable experience," said Jeff Pierce, director of elite athletics for USA Cycling.

McCabe may be the most highly decorated rider on the list, having notched nine wins in races ranked UCI 2.1 and above, most recently winning a stage and leading the Tour of Langkawi in China. McCabe has also won four stages at the Tour of Utah, stages at the Colorado Classic and Herald Sun Tour, and two more stages in Langkawi in 2017. As part of the SmartStop team in 2014 and 2015, McCabe was second in the US Pro Road Race in 2014 among other successes on the domestic circuit. He also won the US criterium championship in 2017 with UnitedHealthcare.

Williams, the reigning amateur road race and criterium champion, is a longtime sprinter on the US domestic circuit, having ridden for Cylance, Astellas, CashCall Mortgage, Trek-Livestrong and Rock Racing, among others. His fast finish has been a staple of the US criterium scene for more than a decade.

Putt, coming off four years at the Pro Continental level with the now-defunct UnitedHealthcare team, has a high level of international racing experience and claims a stage win at the Tour of Alberta among his palmares. He's competed in the Tour of California every year since 2013 when he was on Axel Merckx's Bontrager development team.

Among the younger riders, Hoehn, who rode for Elevate-KHS in 2017 and Aevolo last year, is the reigning U23 road race champion and was recently third overall at the Joe Martin Stage Race in Arkansas. Hernandez, who is in his third year with the Aevolo development team run by Michael Creed, is a big rider with a fast finish. Stites, also in his third season with Aevolo, was recently seventh overall at Joe Martin.

Swirbul, a former mountain biker known for his climbing prowess, finished second overall at Tour of Langkawi earlier this month after finishing third on the infamous Genting Highlands queen stage. Boardman is in his first year on the Continental level with the new Wildlife Generation team run by former Jelly Belly manager Danny Van Haute, while Bryon, another fast finisher, has raced with the different iterations of the Hincapie-run team since 2014.

USA Cycling's Mike Sayers and Aevolo's Creed will direct the US national team in California.

2019 USA Cycling Tour of California national team long list:

Sam Boardman (Wildlife Generation-Maxxis)
Miguel Bryon (Arapahoe-Hincapie)
Michael Hernandez (Aevolo)
Alex Hoehn (Aevolo)
Travis McCabe (Floyd's Pro Cycling)
Tanner Putt (Arapahoe-Hincapie)
Brendan Rhim (Arapahoe-Hincapie)
Tyler Stites (Aevolo)
Keegan Swirbul (Floyd's Pro Cycling)
Justin Williams (Legion of Los Angeles)

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Growing up in Missoula, Montana, Pat competed in his first bike race in 1985 at Flathead Lake. He studied English and journalism at the University of Oregon and has covered North American cycling extensively since 2009, as well as racing and teams in Europe and South America. Pat currently lives in the US outside of Portland, Oregon, with his imaginary dog Rusty.