Rohan Dennis is the MAN in California.
Neal Rogers over at cyclingtips laid out the case for Dennis winning the overall in the Tour of California. It’s a pretty compelling and well-reasoned case and most juries would buy the evidence without much debate.
Dennis is one of the few experienced GC riders coming to California with major TT skills (former Hour record holders and TDF time trial winner, duh) and he can climb with the best when he’s on form. Witness his victory on Mount Diablo a few years back in California. So yeah, you don’t need any more analytics that that to slot him in as favorite numero uno.
He’s done the Folsom time trial two years ago so this years repeat won’t hold any surprises for him. He knows the course and what it takes to ride it well. Not perhaps as fast as Wiggins did but damn fast. Perhaps Taylor Phinney is the only big dog capable of knocking him off.
This leaves the new climb and summit finish up Gibraltar road as the make or break for Dennis. As he says himself, he’ll just have to stick with whoever is climbing well at the front and then crush everyone later in the TT.
Seriously, we’re struggling to imagine who can stop Dennis from winning the Tour of California. We like Lawson Craddock who is a confident Texas gunslinger. He simply has that badass mentality and as Rogers noted, he was strong in Pais Vasco, which is a badass stage race.
Craddock is in his first year with Cannondale after a few years at Giant-Alpecin to start his WorldTour career. Cannondale will forever exist in our mind as Garmin and Jonathan Vaughter’s argyle army. They’ve been trying to win the overall in California for many years with people like Dave Zabriskie, Tom Danielson, Christian Vande Velde and even Rohan Dennis when he was on the squad. Their record is five second places and three third places. We can definitely see Craddock on the podium but a win? Feels like another second or third.
Then there is the usual talk about Craddock’s teammate Andrew Talansky. He’s had an underwhelming start to the season and really we don’t expect him to be a serious contender for one reason: allergies. He’s had a consistent issue in May in California and unless he has somehow solved his breathing difficulties, it seems unlikely he can pull out the win.
You can tell it’s a wide open race for the podium (other than Dennis) when people throw out names like Sky’s Peter Kennaugh. There’s even crazy talk that BMC’s Samuel Sanchez is in the mix which is seriously wacky. Brent Bookwalter can throw down a strong TT and occasionally he can hang in the mountains — we wouldn’t rule him out. Hey, let’s jump on the Laurens Ten Dam For Podium bandwagon!!! He’s been training in the Sierras out of my ski town of Truckee, CA.
The interesting x-factor rides for the sugar sweet candy company Jelly Belly. Lachlan Morton is flying a bit under the radar but after two years getting over the stress on racing of riding for a WorldTour team (Garmin) he is even talking about a return to the big show. He just won the Tour of the Gila and is skinny enough to rocket uphill.
We guess its just a question of motivation for Morton who had the obvious talent but not the boring desire to focus 110% on being a champion. But after a few storied Walkabouts by bicycle in the outback, he seems reenergized. A few more years of maturity never hurts, either.
And then, BRAIN-FART. We forgot all about French sensation Julian Alaphilippe of Etixx-Quickstep. Mon Dieux. Last year, he came within a whisker and Peter’s Sagan’s bonus seconds on the final day sprint of winning the Tour of California. He is definitely not a man to be trifled with and having Boonen around to help marshall the forces will be a big help. Sadly, this is sad news for our sentimental favorite Mr. Morton.
Our podium: Dennis, Craddock, Alaphilippe and Morton dangling just off the magic three steps.