A dynamic EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale squad will take the start of Amgen Tour of California in Long Beach on Sunday, May 13. The team, made up largely of Americans, is capable of animating every stage of the sole WordTour race in the United States.
Lawson Craddock, Alex Howes, Logan Owen, and Taylor Phinney return to racing on home soil. The American contingent will be joined by Australian Simon Clarke, Colombian Dani Martinez, and Briton Dan McLay. Clarke is making his return to racing following his recovery from three broken vertebrae sustained in a crash at Milano-Sanremo. Collectively, the #PinkArgyle ATOC squad is an explosive group looking at sprint stages and mountain stages alike.
“California is a race we’ve had success in the last couple years. It’s got a nice feeling about it for this team,” said sport director Tom Southam. “It’s a home race for an American team. The riders themselves are always a little more motivated for it. When you’re working with a group that wants to go the extra bit, it makes it more interesting.”
The race begins on Sunday in Long Beach and ends the following Saturday in Sacramento. The parcours offers a few sprint stages, two mountain days, and a long time trial that promises to shape the general classification. On those flatter days, the team will look to McLay, who will be up against some of the world’s fastest sprinters.
“It’s been a bit of a gap since my last race and I’ve been training away so I’m ready to get racing,” McLay said. “I’m especially excited for California, as it will be my first race in the States and there will be plenty of racing opportunities for me and also plenty of opportunities to experience California and the US. It’s a competitive field — I think more or less every sprinter who isn’t at the Giro. It obviously won’t be easy but it’s always better to win against the big boys!”
On the stages that point upward, the team will look toward Martinez and Craddock.
“California has always felt like a home race to me. I did it for the first time in 2012 with what is now Hagens Berman Axeon and have returned every year since then,” Craddock said. “We’ve got a well-balanced team for this year’s race. Dan will have a lot of support in the sprints and can be a deciding factor in the fastest finishes. We’ve also got a great crew to race aggressively and look for opportunities to animate the race. As far as the GC is concerned, a guy like Dani Martinez has shown that he is one of the top climbers in the peloton. I’m looking forward to ripping up Gibraltar with him and then giving it a good go in the TT.”
For riders from the U.S., especially those who spend most of the season racing far from home, the Amgen Tour of California provides a special boost.
“Racing back in the States is always something I’m highly motivated for. I’m also excited to redeem myself after last year’s poor showing,” Craddock said. “After such a difficult 2017, I’m having more fun now than I ever have. I’m really looking forward to taking advantages of the opportunities that present themselves over the course of the week. This year’s route will reward aggressive racing, and I’m looking forward to contributing to that.”
Owen is also happy to be in front of home fans.
“It’s going to be great racing in front of the fans on home soil,” he said. “We don’t get the opportunity to race in front some of our biggest fans in America often, so it’s really special when the opportunity presents itself.”
That also cuts both ways with many teams harboring big ambitions for the race.
“People want to win here,” Southam said. “There’s a lot of U.S. sponsors in this sport, and there’s a lot of people with a lot of reasons to win here — no one is going to make it easy.”
EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale for 2018 Amgen Tour of California
Tom Southam (GBR)
Ken Vanmarcke (BEL)
Simon Clarke (AUS)
Lawson Craddock (USA)
Alex Howes (USA)
Dani Martinez (COL)
Dan McLay (GBR)
Logan Owen (USA)
Taylor Phinney (USA)