Last week in the Giro d’Italia, Belgian cyclist Wouter Weylandt crashed on a steep descent and died. The cycling world has been in a somber mood, which no doubt influenced the decision of Amgen Tour of California (ToC) officials yesterday to cancel the first stage of the race around Lake Tahoe due to inclement weather. Although it was snowing intermittently, ice on the road was the deciding factor, and wisely so.
I am pleased to see that George Hincapie will be participating in the ToC this year, as he has suggested this may be his last year of professional cycling. He is one of those great, reliable, steadfast riders who have been ever-present. Can’t imagine a Tour de France without him.
Also happy as always to see 3-time ToC winner and California boy Levi Leipheimer looking fit and ready to take up the challenge again this year. Look for him to do well in the time trial on Friday. (Come on, Levi, win it!)
I’ve been watching David Zabriskie since his first Tour de France and have always liked his courage in jumping on a break-away or hanging on when he just has nothing left to give. Expect to see great things from him in this race as he tunes up for July’s little race in France.
Have to mention Taylor Phinney here, the son of cyclists Davis Phinney and Connie Carpenter. This boy, from conception, could not have escaped being a professional cyclist. It’s in his frickin’ DNA, for crying out loud. Back in the day—before everyone was worried about everyone doping—Phinney and Carpenter were both forces to be reckoned with in their respective cycling arenas, so I’m wishing all good things for him. And he may just take that time trial in Solvang….
Who will win the race? There’s a good chance Andy Schleck will. As much as I would love to see Levi dragging himself up that last steep section of Mt Baldy road to the finish at the ski lift parking lot—and yes, I’ll be there—I live there!—chances are, if all goes well for him, Schleck will take Saturday’s stage. He has been second in the Tour de France, and Andy is a monster on the mountain stages. Mt. Baldy will be a monster stage, and it takes a monster to conquer a monster, so I think we'll see goofy young Andy hauling himself up those switchbacks ahead of everyone else.
Some things to remember: NBC Sports via Versus will be broadcasting coverage of the race every day, with our good friends Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin (who do the Tour de France every year) giving us stats, info and commentary on the riders. (Paul, if you need a place to stay on Saturday, I have a big beautiful cabin in Mt. Baldy. I’m just sayin’….)
The ToC is a stage race, but times are added collectively, so the winner of the race is the man with the fastest time over the entire week of racing, while there will also be individual stage winners each day.
Most of the riders have Twitter accounts, so if you find yourself favoring one man over another (and who doesn't?), you can read their tweets (usually posted in the morning before the race, then later after the finishes) to get inside information, photos and chuckles. Lance Armstrong was always good about this--especially photos of the team's antics. Sigh. We'll miss you this year, L.A.!
Cycling is a team sport, and there are 18 teams in the ToC this year. Team RadioShack and BMC will be my sentimental favorites, but there are some other very intimidating teams out there, so at this point, it’s anyone’s trophy. Here’s to safe riding for all the courageous legmen!