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Nibali, Sagan not in California to ‘take a stroll’

After a post-classics break, Liquigas tandem takes aim at nearly every stage of the Amgen Tour

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SANTA ROSA, California (VN) — By the time the Amgen Tour of California reaches Los Angeles on May 20, the Golden State could well be painted lime green, blue and white.

Liquigas-Cannondale teammates Vincenzo Nibali and Peter Sagan take the start of the Amgen Tour on Sunday as the no. 2 and no. 4 ranked riders in the world, and after a short period of rest, both men will resume their seasons hungry for victories.

Full Amgen Tour of California coverage >>

Nibali, a two-time Giro d’Italia podium finisher who is targeting the Tour de France, is coming off a spring campaign that included an overall win at Tirreno-Adriatico — over defending Amgen Tour champ Chris Horner — and podium finishes at Milan-San Remo and Liège–Bastogne–Liège.

Over the past two years in California, Sagan has won three stages and twice won the points competition. The 22-year-old Slovak put in an impressive but unfulfilling classics campaign, finishing in the top five, but without a win, at Gent–Wevelgem, Amstel Gold Race, Milan-San Remo and the Tour of Flanders.

At Friday night’s team presentation gala, American teammate Ted King remarked that Liquigas had riders capable of winning every stage of this year’s Amgen Tour.

Asked by VeloNews if this was indeed true, Nibali smiled. Though he was visibly suffering from an allergic reaction to Santa Rosa’s spring bloom, Nibali didn’t deny that Liquigas had come to the United States to win bike races.

“Yes,” Nibali said. “Certainly not every stage, but at almost every one of these stages we’ve got a good chance. I wouldn’t deny that we’d like to target every stage.”

Sagan reiterated his teammate’s sentiment, saying, “We have a strong team. We can win with either myself in the sprints, or with Vincenzo if he’s feeling good in the climbs. Plus, we’ve got to keep an eye on the general classification.”

Sagan has not raced since his third-place finish at the April 15 Amstel Gold Race; Nibali has not raced since he narrowly missed the win at Liège on April 22. Both riders traveled to the United States prior to the Amgen Tour for an altitude training camp at Squaw Valley in Lake Tahoe.

With both riders prioritizing the Tour de France for the first time, VeloNews asked if they had come to California to win, or had come simply to ease back into racing while appeasing their American bike sponsor with a presence at the country’s biggest race.

Nibali answered the question succinctly: “Any race we come to, we come to race,” he said. “We’re not here to take a stroll around California.”

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What’s it like to be an American cyclist living in France? Watch to get professional road cyclist Joe Dombrowski’s view.