Optum Pro Cycling presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies brings one of its most competitive teams yet to kick off the 2013 Amgen Tour of California today, known around the world as America’s Greatest Stage Race. The race, which begins Sunday with a tough 103 mile circuit around Escondido featuring a brutal ascent up Mt. Palomar, features eight days and 730 miles of challenging mountain passes, coastal highways, sweltering deserts, and the race’s first ever trip across San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. Performance Director Jonas Carney brings a team of eight to the race for the fifth time in six years, and once again fields the only all-North American roster amongst the 16-team, 128-rider peloton.
“We are proud to be the only all-North American team in the Amgen Tour of California again this year. We feel like the hometown team in a lot of ways, and it’s very rewarding to be able to provide this incredible racing opportunity to our North American athletes.”
The team will look to set up US Criterium Champion Ken Hanson with an opportunity to contest a field sprint as one of its primary goals for the tour. Hanson had a near miss in Spain’s Castilla y Leon against some of the ProTour’s best, and the orange and black leadout train continues to gain momentum as the season progresses.
“While the 2013 route is extremely difficult, some stages will be controlled, and we expect several opportunities for a field sprint this week. We’ve finished in the top five numerous times in stages at previous editions of the race, and this year we’ve brought a strong team for the bunch finishes that are almost certainly going to happen. We will be aiming for a stage win with Alex Candelario and Ken Hanson.”
Another key factor in the race will be the time trial triple threat of Scott Zwizanski, Chad Haga, and Tom Zirbel. All three have won time trials in recent weeks (Zwizanski at Vermont’s Tour of the Dragons, Haga at the Redlands Classic stage race, and Zirbel at the UCI 2.2 ranked SRAM Tour of the Gila). All three will benefit from a new weapon in their arsenal – Orbea’s newly designed Ordu time trial frame, which promises to shave seconds off their finely tuned TT attack.
“It’s been fun watching a friendly rivalry evolve between our three TT specialists,” said Carney. “These guys are all incredible against the clock and the fact that they are keeping track of every second this season has raised the bar for all of them. The time trial at the Tour of California this year is unique as it ends on a tough climb, and that should make things even more interesting.”
All-arounder and team captain Alex Candelario, racing in his 5th Tour of California, has the skill set and experience needed to hunt for results across the wide variety of courses, and has had numerous top ten and top five finishes in recent years, culminating in last year’s fourth place finish in stage three. Candelario will serve as both guidance and a catalyst for the eight-man Optum p/b KBS team.
“It is my fifth time at the Amgen Tour of California, but it is still a great and unique feeling to race across these roads and against this competition,” said Candelario. “We have a great team this year and I am seeing a level of focus from all of our athletes heading into the race that is pretty unparalleled. We are most definitely gunning for a stage win here, and we have been extremely close in the past. All of us are more than ready for the challenge and ready to show the great fans here that an all-American team can still throw it down against the world’s best.”
Tune into NBC Sports Network for live coverage of each stage, and stay tuned to optumprocycling.com for daily updates.
2013 Amgen Tour of California Roster
2013 Amgen Tour of California Course Route
Stage 1 | Escondido Circuit Race | 102.7 miles
Stage 2 | Murrieta to Greater Palm Springs | 124.1 miles
Stage 3 | Palmdale to Santa Clarita | 110.3 miles
Stage 4 | Santa Clarita to Santa Barbara | 83.6 miles
Stage 5 | Santa Barbara to Avila Beach | 115.4 miles
Stage 6 | San Jose Time Trial | 19.6 miles
Stage 7 | Livermore to Mt. Diablo | 91.4 miles
Stage 8 | San Francisco to Santa Rosa | 80.7 miles