FIVE OTHER RIDERS TO WATCH
After the favorites – Peter Sagan, Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish – here are five other riders who could challenge for the overall title during this week’s Amgen Tour of California:
Janier Acevedo (Garmin-Sharp)
Plenty of Colombian riders through the years have been serious climbers. Acevedo, 28, is the best of the newest generation. He won Stage 2 of the Tour of California last year when much of the field crumpled in 114-degree temperatures approaching the top of the Aerial Tramway outside of Palm Springs. Acevedo, who finished third overall, showcased his talents again later in the season in the Tour of Utah and USA Pro Challenge in Colorado. The result: A boost in prestige this year to a Pro Tour squad. Wherever there’s a mountain, particularly late in a stage, look for Acevedo at the front again.
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Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma Quick-Step)
One of the most accomplished and strongest riders, Boonen, 33, has won a world road title, six Tour de France stages and the Paris Roubaix four times. But Boonen also has suffered through the years with injuries and less-than-stellar moments off the bike, including several suspensions for cocaine use. He won the rain-soaked 2008 Tour of California road stage from Santa Rosa to Sacramento. If he’s healthy, Boonen will be in the sprint mix.
Matthew Goss (ORICA-GreenEDGE)
Like many Australian riders, Goss transitioned to road racing after a track career in which he won an Olympic gold medal in team pursuit. Goss, 27, has won two Tour of Italy stages and also won the Milan-San Remo in 2011, the biggest title of his career. Goss won the eighth and final stage of the 2011 Tour of California from Santa Clarita to Thousand Oaks . If he’s riding well, Goss will be a top sprint contender with Boonen, Sagan and Cavendish.
Taylor Phinney (BMC)
Phinney finished fourth in the 2012 Olympic road race and earlier this year won the Dubai Tour. Phinney, 23, is one of only a handful of young Americans thriving at the sport’s top level. And at 6-foot-51/2, he’s among the tallest pro riders. Last year, Phinney won a Tour of Poland stage, and in 2012 he won time-trial stages in the Tour of Italy and USA Pro Challenge. He’s likely headed to the Tour de France for the first time in July.
Jens Voigt (Trek Factory Racing)
At 42, the German will be the oldest rider in the race. He’s talked about retirement for years but keeps winning – or at least making valiant efforts. Voigt is known for his solo breakaways, which is what he did last year to win Stage 5 of the Tour of California from Santa Barbara to Avila Beach. Voigt has won more than 100 pro races dating to the mid-1990s. He’s also known as the Charles Barkley of cycling because he’s a masterful storyteller and rarely without something to say. His best-known quip – “Shut Up, Legs” – is a must-have T-shirt slogan for Voigt fans.
– James Raia