Julian Alaphilippe, Tom Boonen, Maxime Bouet, Nikolas Maes, Maximiliano Richeze, Zdenek Stybar, Petr Vakoč and Martin Velits will ride the US race.
Punchy arrivals, flat stages, a 20-km long individual time trial, many categorized climbs and a tough summit finish, all these will feature on the course of the 11th Tour of California, which kicks off in just a couple of days. Of the ones mentioned above, Gibraltar Road looks to be the key for winning the yellow jersey: the ascent – which is due to make its debut at the event – comes in the stage 3 finale and averages 8% over 12 grueling kilometers.
Making his return to competition following a break which he took after finishing a close second in Paris-Roubaix, Tom Boonen will look for opportunities in a race which is known for being friendly with the sprinters. Still, despite the numerous chances it gives to the fast men of the peloton, the Tour of California will be decided once again on the climbs, and Julian Alaphilippe – who was runner-up at the previous edition for only three seconds, having won the queen-stage en route to this result – is well aware of this thing.
"I have some beautiful memories from last year, despite losing the general classification for a handful of seconds. At that time I was disappointed, but it's all bygones now as I'm coming to the US motivated to try and go for another good performance. We have a strong squad for the race and I hope that we will be once again in the heat of the action", said Julian, the first Frenchman to finish on the podium of the Tour of California.
Also Brian Holm, the team's sport director, is looking with confidence to the start of the race: "We are lining up a balanced outfit in California, for both the flat and the climbs. In the sprints, Tom is the one who will try to get in the mix, as he'll have a nice lead-out here, with Nikolas and Max. Julian, Maxime and Petr will be our men for the hilly terrain, but before putting any pressure on their shoulders, we have to take into account the fact that this is their first race in weeks, so it will be important for them to feel the rhythm again."
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele