This year’s Amgen Tour of California kick off press conference took place in the Council Chamber of the City of Escondido site of this Sundays start and finish. There was no drama like in 2010 when Lance Armstrong and Paul Kimmage had their confrontation at that year’s kick off media event in Sacramento.
Jim Birrell of Medalist Sports, and the Race Director for all eight Amgen Tours of California (“ATOC”) described how his team seeks to raise the bar with each edition using feedback from the riders, team directors, media and spectators. He then turned toward Peter Sagan who was sitting near him on the dais to say that by adding a lot more climbing to this year’s race they were trying to make it harder for Peter to repeat his five stage wins from last year. This year’s race for the first time goes from South to North, has over 60 thousand feet of climbing, the most in ATOC history and will start in warm weather unlike the 2011 start in Lake Tahoe that was snowed out. The first stage begins and ends in Escondido, but will have Palomar Mountain the middle on an anticipated warm day to wear the riders out from the start. The second day is rolling event with a surprise at the end, a steep ascent to the Palm Springs Tramway. Even Friday’s individual time trial in San Jose has a steep climb at the end. The riders who later spoke about it said the time trial ending posed a dilemma for the riders; do they ride their time trial bikes which are fine for 2/3’s of the course and struggle up the last three kilometers, risk a bike change in the middle or use their regular bikes with aero bars. The “Queen” stage happens on Saturday with a mountain top finish at Mt. Diablo. The last day will be iconic with the riders starting in San Francisco, crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, riding on the Marin Headlands and finishing with an expected mass sprint in Santa Rosa.
A reporter asked Tejay van Garderen (BMC) to comment on his thoughts about the future of cycling after the Lance Armstrong drug revelations. He said he was hopeful that the fans can move beyond the past; that cycling has taken its hits, and he believes that the anticipated crowds on Mt Diablo will show that the sport is still strong. Jens Voigt then chimed in to point out that riders such as Tejay were very young when during the peak of the EPO era. Jens said the sport is so much cleaner now and that when riders get caught it shows that the system is working.
In a nod to the Boston Marathon bombing AEG had its chief of security speak about the lack of a specific security threat against the event, but despite that we would see some increased security this year.
When the question and answer session started it became the Jens Voigt show as most of the questions were directed to him as the senior rider of the peloton. He described his long career as a vertical circle. In the beginning he was going up learning what to do, how to train and following orders. Later as he crossed the top he could start to have ambitions to win events and expect his team to support him. Now that at 41 he was on the downside of the circle he has the maturity to feel good about working for the team, mentoring young riders and feeling good when he helps a young teammate to win.
I expect to see a lot of fans up on Mt. Palomar on Sunday.
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