Posted by Editor on 02/18/07
Tour of California - Pre-race Press Conference
Organizers of the Amgen Tour of California held a press conference at Fishermans Wharf this afternoon, with some top athletes in attendance, including Paolo Bettini (Quickstep-Innergetic), Levi Leipheimer and George Hincapie (both Discovery), Bobby Julich and David Zabriskie (both CSC) and Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank).
Organizers declared the race to be the "Superbowl of cycling in America". They are not far off, given the calibre of teams entered. Once the organizers finished introducing sponsors and staff, it was time for the riders to speak.
Leipheimer (winner of the Prologue last year): "I am motivated to win again, and my form is certainly as good as last year. (Editor's Note: Leipheimer certainly looked very lean and in mid-season form) Last year it was one of the great days of my career to come into my hometown (Santa Rosa) in the lead, and I would like to do it again."
Hincapie (stage winner and 4th overall last year): "It is always hard to start the first race of the year with such a hard effort as this time trial tomorrow. That last kilometre is very steep, and I basically crawled to the finish line last year."
Bobby Julich (3rd overall last year): "I had a long off-season this year, so I may not be as prepared as last year. But I think CSC is strong here, and I expect us to be the race animators."
He also spoke of new recruit JJ Haedo, who won three stages last year: "If you can't beat him, buy him! I think it's great, that CSC has a sprinter now."
David Zabriskie (2nd overall last year): "I didn't train as much as last year, so it will be a bit of an experiment to see where my form is."
Zabriskie dosen't think the the time trial will have the same impact on the final GC as last year. "I don't think it is long enough for huge time differences."
Paolo Bettini: "I am happy to finally visit California, since I come from a town in Tuscany with the same name. I don't know exactly how I will do, and what my form is like, but I am looking forward to using this to prepare for the big European events, and I hope to have some beautiful experiences here."
Michael Rasmussen (former Tour Climber's Jersey winner): "I have had the fortune of racing in California before as a mountain biker, so when I heard that the Tour of California was on the program for rabobank I was the first to sign up. This is the first race since I broke my femur 4 months ago; my leg is progressing well - not quite as strong as the other one yet, but there is 4 months to improve and get ready for the Tour."
The first rider (of 144) is off at 1:00 pm local time tomorrow (4:00 pm EST), with Charles Dionne going at 2:39 pm local, Micahel Barry at 3:04 pm local and Ryder Hesjedal at 3:11 pm local (one rider ahead of Bettini).
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