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Saturday, May 14, 2011

Amgen Tour of California

5/14/11 #230

5/14/11 Week 19    this week: 106 miles   [2nd quarter: 440 ]    2011: 756

The Giro d'Italia is an stage race which the most elite riders consider a warm-up for the more prestigious and more profitable Tour de France, leaving the younger up-and-coming hopefuls to contest the Giro for victory, so it's a different kind of Grand Tour event. This year's Giro is different in that Alberto Contador, who fears that he may be suspended before the Tour de France, is actually contesting the Giro because it may be his only chance for a 2011 Grand Tour victory before his credentials are pulled.

While the larger world of cycling looks at the (second-rank) Giro this week, the domestic US world of cycling waits for the opening of the Amgen Tour of California on Sunday. Notably, it's not just the Tour of California but instead it's the Amgen Tour of California, and the selling of the naming rights indicates the precarious financial position of the race. The ToC is not a Grand Tour event, it is a developing event that struggles for funding every year.

There is some chutzpah in Amgen's involvement and investment in the race, since the biotech company is the developer of EPO, which is (ab)used as the once-favorite performance enhancing drug (PED) in competitive cycling. Naming a bike race the Amgen (whatever) is sort of like calling it the Floyd Landis Memorial.

Favorites in the Tour of California include local rider Levi Leipheimer, who was won the ToC three times. Television coverage is at Versus.

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