German sprinter Marcel Kittel will lead the team at the US World Tour event.
The 12th edition of the Tour of California will visit 12 cities, with Sacramento hosting the start of the race, on May 14, and Pasadena welcoming the riders for the final leg, one week later. The sprinters will have four big chances to fight for victories and the green jersey, which rewards the best placed rider in the points classification, but it will be once again the climbers and the all-rounders who'll take center spotlight when it will come down to the overall standings.
First opportunity should arrive on stage two, on the uphill finish to San Jose, but it won't be until Mt. Baldy, one of the toughest climbs in the US, which averages 8.4% over 8.2 kilometers, that the general classification will take shape and the favourites will emerge. One day later, on pan flat roads, a 24km-long individual time trial on an out-and-back course in Big Bear Lake will give one more shot to the GC contenders to make up the time lost on the brutal Mt. Baldy.
Marcel Kittel, who turned 29 earlier this week, is returning to the Tour of California five years after making his debut in the race and will look to add at least a victory to his 2017 tally, which saw him win seven races so far, including the Dubai Tour general classification and a record fifth Scheldeprijs.
New Zealand National ITT Champion Jack Bauer, neo-pros Enric Mas and Maximilian Schachmann, Fabio Sabatini, Zdenek Stybar, Matteo Trentin and Martin Velits will also make up the Quick-Step Floors for the Tour of California, a race which saw our team conquer the GC in 2016 and take a total of ten stage victories at the previous participations.
David De La Cruz, who won stages at Paris-Nice and Vuelta al Pais Vasco this season, was slated to start the 12th edition of the US race, which this year has been elevated to World Tour category, but will be forced to skip it due to pulmonitis and hence has been replaced by Schachmann, who impressed at last month's Tour de Romandie.
"It's nice to be back in California. This is a race we like and in which we've had plenty of success in the past, and which at the same time is becoming harder by the year, even more now that is part of the World Tour", said sport director Brian Holm. "Unfortunately, Julian Alaphilippe, who won the 2016 edition, won't be here due to a knee injury, while David De La Cruz, who was supposed to be our man for the general classification, is also out due to health problems. Despite this, we still have a good team, with Marcel Kittel, who has a fair chance of winning a stage, and young neo-pro Enric Mas, who I'm very curious to see how will climb on Mt. Baldy, so all-in-all, we are confident."
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele