09 May 2012

What is America's Toughest Stage Race?

Can they all be "The Toughest"

Marketing is a wonderful thing, especially when there is a battle of image. Did you know that the 2012 Tour of Utah, the oldest American stage race, is now referring to itself as "America's toughest stage race"? Last year the USA Pro Challenge was "America's toughest stage race," they still claim this title. They also claim they are "one of the largest professional cycling races in the United States." Meanwhile the Amgen Tour of California has become "America's most successful cycling race." A nice way to convey tradition and stability.

In 4 days the Amgen Tour of California (ATOC) begins it's 7th year. The stage race is one of my favorite bike races to attend every year. Although the ATOC continues to battle the Giro d'Italia for placement on the race calendar, coveting many of the worlds best cyclists racing the 3-week Grand Tour stage race in Italy, many others will be racing in California next week. Sixteen teams will compete at the Amgen Tour of California, the teams were announced months ago (with two recent team name changes), but the full rosters of riders have yet to be announced. I want to know who will be there. 2012 Amgen Tour of California teams

RadioShack Nissan Trek just announced their roster! Jens Voigt is coming!
2012 roster for Amgen Tour of California includes last year's winner Chris Horner, Jens Voigt, and the current US National Road Champion Matthew Busche, but no Schleck brothers or Fabian Cancellara. Team roster: George Bennett (NZl), Matthew Busche (USA), Chris Horner (USA), Markel Irizar (Spa), Ben King (USA), Tiago Machado (Por), Gregory Rast (Swi), Jens Voigt (Ger)

Levi Leipheimer is an unknown Update 05/11/12 3:08pm: Levi will race! 
Levi is still deciding whether he can ride. Levi Leipheimer was injured when hit by a car one day prior to his planned start at Vuelta al Pais Vasco, in the Basque Country of Spain. He fractured his fibula on April 1st. Fractures typically take 6-weeks to heal. You can uarantee Levi's doctor, PT, and Levi himself are busy doing everything possible to get Levi onto the roster of his team Omega Pharma-Quickstep for 2012, but it is unknown as of today. The tour begins in 4 days. Sadly Levi's home town is Santa Rosa, California - the host city of the start of the 2012 Amgen Tour of California.

Levi Leipheimer has won Amgen Tour of California 3 times before (2007, 2008, 2009), came in 3rd in 2010 and 2nd in 2011. He is a fixture of the race, I hope Levi will be able to race or he will be greatly missed. I am betting Levi will be there, I hope he will be there to race. Levi has done much to promote cycling in the United States, and has the 2012 USA Pro Cycling Challenge in Colorado in August to look forward to. He recently made 2 spotlight videos for the Colorado tour, see Levi behind the scenes: Levi Leipheimer 's Life off the Bike (part 1), Levi Leipheimer 's Life off the Bike (part 2).
Levi and a fan at the ATOC in Livermore in 2011  ©Photo by PedalDancer.com/Karen
Omega Pharma-Quickstep is in the House

Levi tweeted this photo yesterday of his team enjoying a meal together at Riviera Restorante in Santa Rosa, a hint at who will be on the team's roster. And yes, that is the THE Tom Boonen at the dinner table. Everyone, every parent should bring their children and themselves out to see an icon of modern professional cycling, currently ranked the #1 rider in the World - former World Champion Tom Boonen, is a Belgian racing in California!
BMC returning with Tejay van Garderen and George Hincapie

One of my favorite teams with my pick for the overall podium in 2012 - Tejay van Garderen, along with a crowd favorite - George Hincapie, have both been confirmed for 2012, also Chris Horner, and Jens Voigt.

Which American tour is the toughest?
  • Tour of California: UCI 2.HC, 750 miles, +62,909ft elev, 8 Stages, 16 teams, May 13-20, 2012
  • Tour of Utah: UCI 2.1, 400+miles, 6 Stages, 8 teams, August 7-12, 2012
  • USA Pro Cycling Challenge: UCI 2.HC, 683 miles + altitude!, 7 Stages, 17 teams, August 20-26, 2012
We'll have to wait for a summary of elevation gain to determine the winner. Carmichael Training is sending a guided tour group out on each of these tours to ride every stage before the pros. Perhaps we'll get elevation profile totals from their group or from STRAVA. 

If you are interested in seeing the climb profiles for the 2012 Grand Tours, visit Climb by Bike, a very resourceful site for climbs in Europe:
Tour de France 2012       Giro d'Italia 2012       Vuelta España 2012

Pedal Dancer attending the 2012 Amgen Tour of California

I will be there! Happily attending Stages 5, 6, 7, and 8 as media. Along with a new Pedal Dancer Photographer - Willie Reichenstein, and a few of my family members. Come say hi to us if you see us on route.  ~Karen

For more information on viewing the race as a fan read Pedal Dancer guides for fans:
Spectator Guide Amgen Tour of California
Amgen Tour of California schedule of TV coverage