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U.S. Scene This Week: All hands to Tour of California

It's all California

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Sacramento, California, is the place to be this week for U.S. racing fans. The Amgen Tour of California is back Sunday for opening day action in the state capital for the second year in a row. Many of the country’s top female crit racers will share the stage Sunday as the Sacramento Grand Prix precedes the men’s peloton’s arrival for the stage 1 finish.

Amgen Tour of California

May 16-23

U.S. racing returns to the world stage Sunday when the fifth Tour of California rolls off in Nevada City. With the date change from February to May, this year’s race features not only a more difficult route, but a peloton in near-top form as international riders build for the June/July stage races in Europe and the domestic peloton peaks for its biggest stage race of the year.

While the stars of the European peloton should duke it out for the final GC, there is a contingent of North American-based riders that have shown the pop this spring to put in a bid for a stage win. Martin Gilbert (SpiderTech-Planet Energy) won the final stage at the 2009 Tour of Missouri and has racked up four wins in 2010. Fly V Australia’s Jonathan Cantwell and Team Type 1’s Aldo Ino Ilesic have each posted up for the victory shot as well and while they’re two completely different sprinters, either could hop into the mix on stages 1 and 5.

Scott Zwizanski (Kelly Benefit Strategies) was the runner-up at the U.S. professional time trial championships. While we haven’t seen him domestically this season, he is likely the top hope for a Continental squad in the stage 7 time trial.

Ben Day (Fly V Australia) has won nearly every stage race he has entered in 2010. While the ProTour firepower he will face will likely keep him from the top step, Day and teammate Phil Zajicek are among a cadre of Continental riders chasing a place in the top 10 of the final GC. Rory Sutherland (UnitedHealthcare) is another rider likely on that list; the route suits him well and he’ll have the full support of his squad should he find himself knocking on the door after the stage 6 climb to Big Bear. Jelly Belly returns from a successful Asian stint where the team won the individual GC at the Tour of Korea and the Tour of Thailand.

Sacramento Grand Prix – Sacramento, California

Sunday May 16

The women’s Tour of California criterium moves to the state capital from Santa Rosa this year. The Sacramento Grand Prix will run around the capitol building over a four-corner, pancake-flat course.

Colavita-Baci, who has proven to be the strongest leadout in the country thus far in 2010, will bring only three riders — Modesta Vzesniauskaite, Jessica Phillips and Rushlee Buchanan — leaving the race wide open. Buchanan won the final day of USA Crits SpeedWeek earlier this month and Vzesniauskaite went two-for-four at Joe Martin last weekend.

Erica Allar, Robin Farina and Alexis Rhodes (Vera Bradley Foundation) will be at the start. Rhodes won the Joe Martin Stage Race criterium in Arakansas last week and Allar was a fixture on the podium at SpeedWeek in the Southeast. TIBCO riders Meredith Miller and Alison Starnes will also line up for the grand prix. Coryn Rivera (Peanut Butter & Co.-Twenty12) is back from a European stint. She will join her teammates including Lauren Tamayo, and Shelley Evans, who each won medals at last week’s Pan American games. Laura Van Gilder will continue her guest riding streak with regional outfit Third Pillar. Van Gilder was third in the SpeedWeek final overall standings and is always a threat in a bunch finish.

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