Rigoberto Urán and Tejay van Garderen will lead EF Education First at the 2019 Tour of California, which starts this weekend, with support coming from the likes of Taylor Phinney, Lachlan Morton and recent signing Sergio Higuita.
The American WorldTour team can also expect to enjoy strong support from roadside fans at what is the only men's WorldTour event in the US, with the race also attracting some of the sport's biggest names, including former winners Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and George Bennett (Jumbo-Visma), two-time runner-up Rohan Dennis (Bahrain-Merida), sprinter Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) and Trek-Segafredo's Richie Porte.
Van Garderen – who joined EF Education First this season from BMC – won the event in 2013 and finished second overall last season, and is looking forward to racing on home roads again.
"It's not often that you get such a competitive field of world-class cyclists without having to travel overseas," van Garderen said in a team press release.
"When you have this kind of competition so close to home, you won't want to miss out. The best part of racing the Tour of California is the home-court advantage. The crowds are so supportive of the American riders and teams."
Van Garderen's fellow Americans on the seven-man squad are Phinney, Alex Howes and Lawson Craddock, who finished third overall at the 2014 race.
The race starts in Sacramento on Sunday, and wends its way south to finish in Pasadena six days later in what is the longest edition of the race in its 14-year history, covering a range of terrain, from fast, flat sprint stages to lung-busting mountain stages that will help to determine the overall winner.
"Mount Baldy will provide the most fireworks," said van Garderen of stage 6, which starts in the city of Ontario.
"The day before we race Baldy" – stage 5 from Pismo Beach to Ventura – "we pass right by my second home in Los Olivos, and it's always exciting to be on home roads. It's too bad on that stage that we aren't making a left turn up Mt. Figueroa as well," he said.
Making up the rest of the team are Australian Morton and Colombian climber Higuita – who officially joined the team only last week – with Urán making his return to racing after breaking his collarbone in a crash at Paris-Nice in March.
"With the calibre of the team we're bringing to California, I'll be working for the big boys," said Morton, who's raced extensively in the US during his career.
"I've never raced with Rigo, and I'm excited to work for a champion of his calibre," he added.
As for Higuita, sports director Tom Southam saic that the 21-year-old will have the opportunity to show what he can do, but that there'll be no expectations of him.
"Higuita has had some excellent results through the spring [with Team Euskadi], and now he steps up into his first race with the team," said Southam. "It's his first WorldTour race, so it'll be a steep learning curve for him, and we're keeping the pressure off him. It'll be interesting to see how he can adapt to this level of racing."
EF Education First for the 2019 Tour of California: Lawson Craddock, Sergio Higuita, Alex Howes, Lachlan Morton, Taylor Phinney, Rigoberto Urán, Tejay van Garderen
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