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Local man, past champions among riders to watch in the Amgen Tour of California

Check out what cyclists face in longest, most challenging routes ever in 2019 Amgen Tour of California

Amgen Tour of California officials announced the routes for the annual bicycle race with 25 King of the Mountain climbs, 14 sprints and a 773-mile course. Officials say this year’s race, May 12-18, is the longest and most challenging one yet.
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Amgen Tour of California officials announced the routes for the annual bicycle race with 25 King of the Mountain climbs, 14 sprints and a 773-mile course. Officials say this year’s race, May 12-18, is the longest and most challenging one yet.

Over the next week, some of cycling’s top athletes will take to the roads of Sacramento, South Lake Tahoe, Mount Baldy and more en route to Pasadena.

The 14th annual Amgen Tour of California begins Sunday in Sacramento. The seven-day, 777.6-mile race features numerous riders among 19 teams taking part in the event.

Egan Bernal of Colombia held up the trophy in Sacramento last year, but there will be a new champion this year.

Bernal isn’t in the field – nor was he slated to be. He was scheduled to compete in the Giro d’Italia, which runs concurrently with the Tour of California, but he broke his collarbone last week while training and is out of action after immediately undergoing surgery.

With Bernal not among the contenders, here are five riders to watch in this year’s Tour of California, in alphabetical order:

George Bennett

Age: 29

From: New Zealand

Team: Team Jumbo-Visma

Riding professionally since 2011, Bennett will be competing in his fifth Tour of California. The 2017 champion is looking for a second title. “(Winning) is the main objective,” he said Friday in Sacramento. “I don’t know if it’s going to be easier, but it will be a lot different than last time, without the time trial and different riders here as well. … It all comes down to (Mount) Baldy and staying out of trouble the other days.”

Mark Cavendish

Age: 33

From: Great Britain

Team: Dimension Data

He’s one of the top stage winners in this race, but the 15th-year pro has yet to record a podium finish. “I’ve been here many times ... and I always feel welcome at the Amgen Tour of California, so it’s good to be back,” said Cavendish, whose 10 stage victories in this event trail only Slovakia’s Peter Sagan (16). “It’s one of the most important races on the calendar now, and with that comes a bigger challenge to win.” The 2016 Olympic silver medalist doesn’t just win stages in this race. He has 30 of them at the Tour de France.

Evan Huffman

Age: 29

From: Sacramento area

Team: Rally UHC Cycling

The race is a homecoming of sorts for the Elk Grove native now living in El Dorado Hills. “This race is for sure a huge target, and it’s something that our team has been talking about all spring, that we need to be ready to do well at this race,” he said Friday. Huffman won two stages in 2017 and the King of the Mountains red jersey the previous year. “For me, what would make a successful week – I’d like to win the KOM jersey again, and if there’s an opportunity for a stage result, I’d like to take advantage of that as well,” he said.

Peter Sagan

Age: 29

From: Slovakia

Team: Bora-hansgrohe

Sagan said Friday he’s happy to be back in California for a race that he’s had a lot of success in. His 16 stage victories are the most in the event’s history and he’s a past champion, taking the yellow jersey in 2015. This will be his 10th appearance in the Tour of California, a race he has not missed since becoming a professional rider, and it will tie American rider Ben Jacques-Maynes for the most in the event’s history.

Tejay van Garderen

Age: 30

From: Tacoma, Washington

Team: EF Education First

The American cyclist has also been successful in the Tour of California. He won the race in 2013 and finished second last year. He took home Young Rider honors in 2011, a year before earning the same classification in the Tour de France. “It’s always a treat to be able to come home,” van Garderen said Friday. “Now being on a truly American team coming and racing on American soil provides a different feel and a different level of motivation.”

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Noel Harris is a sports reporter for The Sacramento Bee, with a focus on the Kings. He’s been in professional journalism for more than 18 years. His roles have included sports editor at The Modesto Bee and news editor at two smaller California newspapers, as well as online producer and copy editor.


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