Preview: Tour of California

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Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka has selected a very strong line-up for the Amgen Tour of California, looking for success across not only the sprint stages on offer but in the GC too.

Mark Cavendish, who has a long history with race, is among the event’s major drawcards and will be looking at building on a tough but rewarding return to racing at the Tour de Yorkshire.

Three of the seven stages offer opportunities for the sprinters: the first, fifth and seventh, which ends in Sacramento, a place where the 32-year-old has fond memories of.

He’ll be joined by Mark Renshaw, who also made his return to racing in Yorkshire after surgery, as they look to take up familiar roles with those exciting finishes in prospect.

Lachlan Morton, who was seventh on the GC in 2017, lines up knowing that the race’s Queen stage finish on Gibraltar Road (stage two) and the Time Trial (stage four) will be among the big moments in the race for the overall winner. The likes of Tejay van Garderen who has previously won this event will likely again be among those that Morton will be up against.

That sees the balance of the squad in Julien Vermote, Tom-Jelte Slagter, Jay Thomson and Scott Davies all playing various crucial roles over the course of the week-long race.

The event gets underway on Sunday with a 134.5km start and finish in Long Beach and ends a week later in a similar vein in Sacramento.

In between, on top of the stunning Gibraltar Road finish, it will pass through the likes of Laguna Seca, Elk Grove and in stage six climb up from Folsom to Lake Tahoe before the fireworks in Sacramento.

Mark Cavendish – Rider

We’re here with a group of guys that can go well across all stages so we’re determined to be successful. After such a crash in Sanremo it’s not easy but it’s a good way to test each other (as we look ahead to the Tour de France).

I’m not here just to mill around, you only get better by trying to get involved so I’ll be doing that on sprint days and we’ll be looking at being successful as a team.

I’ve seen this race grow eventually into a World Tour event that it is now. And to see that, just witnessed by all the fans that have come out, is absolutely wicked.

Lachlan Morton – Rider

I feel really good, as it’s been my goal since the start of the year and I think preparations will all come together at the right time. I’m just looking forward to getting out there and hopefully just putting out the sort of performance that I think I’m capable of at the moment.

The GC here is always close because there’s a couple of selective stages but not so many that huge differences make so it’s often a race between three or four guys right until the end. I’m sure that this year will be no different.

That’s the beauty of a bike race, everybody starts from zero and I’m not overly focused on the other guys, I’ve had bad luck at this race in the past so if I can just get through the race delivering everything that I can without any mishaps or regrets then I’ll be happy. Normally if that happens then you’re right in the bike race.

Our line-up:
Mark Cavendish
Mark Renshaw
Julien Vermote
Lachlan Morton
Tom-Jelte Slagter
Jay Thomson
Scott Davies

Our image explained:

The Grizzly Bear has been borrowed from California’s state flag and given a Flandersesque pose.

The image pays homage to the Queen stage which ends on the summit of the Hors Catérgorie climb of Gibraltar Road.

This iconic climb is arguably southern California’s toughest and most scenic ascent; measuring 12km and averaging 8% with a maximum 12% gradient.

With such a tough finish, there’s bound to be a few riders needing a good bear hug after the stage.