Cavendish back in California.
The Tour of California woke up in an extremely good mood today.
Thanks to the overlapping dates in May, the race is always struggling to steal stars from the Giro d’Italia. Big names like Nibali and Froome are either in Italy or some high attitude training camp than in Cali.
Today however, a big star fell into their hands when Omega Pharma-Quickstep boss Patrick Lefevere announced that in all likelihood sprinter Mark Cavendish would be on the start line in Sacramento on May 11th.
The Manxman cometh.
That hasn’t happened since 2010 when Cavendish and his HTC-Columbia crew took out stage one from Nevada City.
That Tour of California is most remembered for when Floyd Landis blew up the legend of Lance Armstrong. The Texan would crash out of the race four stages later and while Cavendish is still a superstar, Armstrong is now disgraced.
We remember the cocktail party screening of the film Chasing Legends on the night before the start of the race. Cavendish was on hand, stylishly dressed, and getting lots of attention from every party girl in the theater lobby. The film centered on HTC-Columbia’s ups and downs at the 2009 Tour de France. Cav won a bunch of stages on the way to Paris and he’d win the next day in Sacramento.
In any case, the Tour of California now has two big Brits on the marquee: Cavendish and Sir Bradley Wiggins and perhaps even the Queen will put in an appearance. It’s practically Ye Olde TOC and if Scratch Labs caters the event, they can add Shepard’s Pie to the menu.
Cav will be coming to win stages and Wiggins is already on record saying he wants to win the whole damn Tour and give Americans a hero they can believe in. Which is awfully kind of the fellow to rescue us from despair over that wanker Armstrong.
Now that the guest list includes Cavendish, we have the distinct possibility of a Cav-Sagan sprint battle. Sagan has dominated the sprints in California with 10 stage wins to his credit including two last year. He may be getting bored with all the podium girls in Cali but he clearly likes the Golden Bear state. If he doesn’t show up, Cavendish will have the sprints to himself and will be in a rather bubbly mood.
Meanwhile on the GC front, Wiggins won’t have to contend with defending champion Tejay van Garderen who will do his Tour de France prep in Europe. Nor is 2011 winner Chris Horner of Lampre likely to mount much of a challenge since he just punctured a lung, and broke four ribs in a collision with a car while training around Lake Como. The 42 year old winner of last year’s Vuelta a Espana looks done permanently.
Or maybe Horner is following his secret script for a second Vuelta win — look old and injured the entire seson, then pop up in Utah for a good performance and hit Spain with form when everyone else is exhausted.
Perhaps it will be up to Garmin-Sharp’s Andrew Talansky to provide a battle opponent for Wiggins. California could be a rematch of the 2012 Tour of Romandie where the two went head to head with Talansky finishing an impressive second.
Jonathan Vaughters always brings a strong squad to California with Danielson, perhaps new climbing ace Janier Acevedo who finished third in Cali last year and let’s not forget author and budding star Phil The Thrill Gaimon. Throw in a rider like Rohan Dennis and Wiggins and Sky have plenty to deal with. Be interesting to see if Richie Porte makes the trip since continual illness has scrubbed the Giro d’Italia victory plan.
Belkin will most likely bring 2012 TOC winner Robert Gesink who seems to perform better far away from home than in high pressure three week stage races in Europe. We haven’t heard from Gesink since his sixth overall in the Tour Down Under but he’s worth placing a bet on.
Who else does Wiggins have to keep an eye on? Well, there’ s Leopold König of NetApp-Endura who won last year’s Queen stage up Mount Baldy on the way to an 11th position overall. He did lose 1:43 in the time trial stage in San Jose that year and yes, Wiggins is rather handy with those races against the clock.
And then yes, there is that deadly force, that dominating power, Andy Schleck and brother Frank. Andy has done several tours of California and loves soaking up the adulation here as opposed to the pointed criticism he gets everywhere else.
Andy often did his tour builds via California so perhaps the brothers Schleck will put in an appearance; Frank riding near the front, Andy near the back. In this way team sponsor Trek gets a wider exposure for their bikes.
The big news is, the Brits Are Coming To California. They don’t need no stinking Giro.