UnitedHealthcare’s team manager Mike Tamayo has more experience at the Tour of California than most anyone driving a team car.
He’s directed everyone from Floyd Landis to Rory Sutherland to this year’s Philip Deignan. He’s come close to the podium and keeps banging on the door in California. Tamayo is meticulous in his preparation and has a PHD in climbs like Mt Baldy and Diablo.
What’s interesting for tomorrow’s queen stage is that it’s not as physically demanding as the Baldy climb but that fact according to Tamayo is what makes it even more dangerous and unpredictable. It’s not the gradient, but the guessing game.
We talked with Tamayo the morning of the Avila Beach stage where his top GC rider Philip Deignan, along with guys like Francisco Mancebo (5 Hour Energy) missed the peloton-shredding move initiated by RadioShack. Deignan had a real shot at the podium and that pretty much went out the window — unless he can deliver something magic on the Diablo climb.
Here’s Tamayo’s take on the East Bay’s major mountain: “Saturday could destroy this race. It’s not as hard as Baldy which makes it harder. If it’s Baldy, it’s a hard race and it’s every man for himself, mano-a-mano. You either have the legs from the bottom of the climb to the top or your don’t. When it’s not that hard it becomes a tactical bike race and I’m sure Saxo is trying to figure a way to win this race. And if they can isolate Tejay, they’ll take advantage of that. Then it’s tactical bike racing. The fact that it’s not as hard as Baldy is what makes it a crap shoot. You win the race on Diablo, you lose the race in the time trial.”
It’s an intriguing assessment and given Tamayo’s long experience at the Tour of California, his take merits serious attention. It’s hard to imagine Michael Rogers making up 1:47 to steal the overall victory from Van Garderen but the other podium spots are still up for grabs. Will Janier Acevedo (Jamis Hagens-Berman) or Matthew Busche (RadioShack), both no more than 30 seconds down on Cameron Meyer (Orica GreenEdge) knock him off the podium?
No matter what, it should be a thriller and a devil of a climb and according to Tamayo, very tactical.