The seventh running of the Amgen Tour of California is in the books, with the first truly European overall winner in Robert Gesink of the Netherlands. Final thoughts and analysis on America's premier stage race.
Robert Gesink showed some cracking form to take the win and the leader's jersey on the Tour's toughest day, the ascent of Mt. Baldy. Gesink showed himself the strongest and garners his biggest win to date. That said, his chances for the Tour de France in July are slim to none, so hopefully he can ride this form into June and put in a strong showing at the Dauphine Libere, perhaps even shooting for the win.
Chris Horner rode a decent race, but was betrayed in the time trial, losing far too much time to contend. His long-range break away attempt during stage seven provided a bit of drama, but really it was a doomed attempt at glory. Horner should be commended for going out with a bang, but even he would likely allow that he knew he wouldn't be able to stay away. Next up for America's coolest active pro cyclist is a run at another Tour de France, where he'll look to support Andy Schleck.
Peter Sagan takes five stages for 2012, leading some to label this year' srace "The Bore of California". Sagan was electric from wire to wire, and were it not for a lone solo win by Sylvain Georges to Big Bear, Sagan probably would have bagged six wins. Clearly he is one of the brightest young stars of cycling, but he has yet to prove his pedigree in Europe.
Which brings me to the quality of racing at the Amgen Tour of California. As organizers want to maintain an American-heavy field, necessarily the field quality suffers. Bissell, Exergy, Bontrager-Livestrong and some of the other domestic outfits put in strong performances, but the fact remains that a win in California still doesn't compare to one in Europe, at Tirreno-Adriatico or the Tour de Swiss for example. It is funny to think that when the organizers shifted the date of the race to conflict with the Giro some in America said that the quality of field would suffer at the Tour of Italy. Today it is clear that the world's best (Cavendish, Basso, Goss, Farrar, Hushovd, Scarponi, Shleck, Hesjedal) prefer Italy's three week grand tour to California.
In the past few years at the Amgen Tour of California it seems there has always been a new name that emerged as a rider to watch for the future. Robert Gesink made an impression several years ago that showed his potential for the future. Last year, it was Matthew Busche who showed himself as a climber of the future in supporting Horner's overall victory. This year, it was young Joseph Dombrowski's 4th place finish on Mt. Baldy that generated immediate buzz for American cycling. Dombrowski rode with poise and panache and mixed it up with some of the world's top climbers. He'll likely spend another year or two at the developmental level, but his future looks bright to say the least.
Heading into the race, Garmin-Barracuda's Andrew Talansky was pegged by many as a dark horse candidate for a podium placing. Unfortunately though it didn't work out that way. He put in a strong showing in the ITT finishing only 48 seconds off of Zabriskie's time, but things completely unraveled on the way to Mt. Baldy, where he was dropped early and then completely cracked en rout to conceding 25+ minutes to the stage winner Gesink. Talansky's poor performance must have been due to some sort of sickness, as even on his worst day he shouldn't lose that much time. He should be fine going forward, and will surely return again to battle for the win in future Amgen editions.