The 2012 Amgem Tour of California is set to be one of the most challenging yet. The race, which is in its seventh year, sees cyclists pit themselves against each other and the impressive Californian terrain, cycling over 750 miles from 13-20 May. Stages will include familiar areas like San Jose, which has featured in the previous six Tour of California races; as well as new terrain like Sonora. Key stages will be Stage 5, the Individual Time Trial in Bakersfield; as well as Stage 7, which includes the challenging Mt. Baldy, and 10 miles added to the penultimate stage. The 2012 Tour of California starts in Santa Monica, home to 3-time race winner Levi Leipheimer. Leipheimer’s participation is currently in doubt after he suffered a broken leg when he was hit by a car last week.
Christian Vande Velde, who finished fourth in 2011, is not competing in California this year, leaving the field open for other riders to make their mark, and possibly gain valuable world-ranking points. Only 16 teams can take part, and this year’s entrants include BMC, Garmin-Barracuda, Omega Pharma-Quick-Step, and RadioShack-Nissan. Competing for the first time is Ag2r-La Mondiale. Another new, and possibly contentious, inclusion is team Bontrager-Livestrong. They weren’t able to take part in the USA Pro Cycling Challenge in 2011, as they had the same paying agent as RadioShack.
Riders to watch this year include Cadel Evans (BMC Racing); fellow Australian Robbie McEwen (Australian GreenEdge) who is retiring after this season; Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick-Step) who did well in his first WorldTour season in 2011; and Matthew Busche (RadioShack-Nissan-Trek), who is the reigning U.S. national road champion and is increasing in confidence his third full pro season. Last year’s winning team, RadioShack-Nissan-Trek, is expected to have another strong performance, with riders including veterans, FrÃ¤nk Schleck, Jens Voigt, Andreas Kloden; as well as younger members Ben King, Jesse Sergent, and Tony Gallopin. Defending champion Chris Horner (RadioShack-Nissan-Trek) is going for a win again in 2012, despite only returning to racing in March after recovering from a serious injury sustained in last year’s Tour de France.
The Amgem Tour of California has proven itself to be an exciting event for participants and spectators since its inception, and 2012 will be no exception. The race has six jerseys, including the 2012 Amgen Breakaway from CancerÂ® Most Courageous Rider Jersey, awarded daily to the rider who exemplifies determination, perserverance, inspiration, sacrifice, and courage. As well as the Race Leader jersey (yellow), riders will be competing each day for the King of the Mountains (red spots); Visit California Sprint jersey (green); Best Young Rider (orange, for riders under 23); and the Most Aggressive Rider jersey (black). The overall prize pool is around $200,000. As well as the spectacular Californian scenery, the course includes new mountain climbs; exciting sprint finishes in Santa Cruz and Livermore; and one of the hardest individual time trials the competition has ever staged. Don’t miss it.