Chris Horner took control of the 2011 ATOC on Stage 4. Photo: Richard Masoner/Cyclelicious/Flickr
The seventh edition of the Amgen Tour of California started yesterday in Santa Rosa with a thrilling stage that saw the remnants of the day's breakaway caught just seven kilometers from the finish line and a final sprint won by 22-year-old phenom Peter Sagan. And while the young Slovak siezed the leader's jersey, the race has me thinking more about the breadth and success of today's American cycling scene.
Since it's debut in 2006, the Amgen Tour of California (ATOC) has become the biggest stage race in the United States and continues to attract an increasingly impressive roster of international talent. Half of the 16 teams that lined up this year are UCI Pro Tour teams, including three of the world's currently top four ranked cyclists: Tom Boonen (1), Vincenzo Nibali (2), and Sagan (4). And California is just one of three international-caliber stage races in the U.S. these days, with the USA Pro Cycling Challenge and the Tour of Utah, both in August, also luring lots of the biggest pros from Europe. Never in the history of American cycling has there been so many high-caliber races held on these shores in a single season.