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The Amgen Tour of California(AToC) is moving its races dates for the 2010 edition to May 16-23. After two soggy years of racing the event organizers were looking for a change and after discussing the possibility of April, May or June dates with the UCI, the organizing body of the sport, it was decided that a mid-May date worked best with the existing professional calendar of events.

 

Also included in the news was the fact that in 2011 the AToC will most likely become a Pro Tour(PT) event meaning it will rank up there with the top professional races on the globe. If you are a Pro Tour team that's a good thing as now that it is a PT event, more PT teams can compete. Currently, as a non-PT event only half the field can be PT teams. If you are a US domestic pro team the change is not a good thing as with the inclusion of more PT teams, less US domestic teams will be invited.

 

This might seem like a bad thing, but if you look at the results from the AToC from 2009 there was a significant performance difference between the PT and non-PT teams. Clearly, this is not an ideal situation. Hopefully, this will motivate the US domestic professional teams to raise their game.

 

The May date still has the ability to attract top European riders. The only competition on the schedule is the Tour of Italy and while many top riders would potentially be competing there, the AToC offers good preparation for riders looking to ride the Tour de France and not desiring to ride a three-week race like the Giro as part of their program.

 

Also a possibility if the race moves to May is an incursion or two into the high Sierra Nevada mountains. Unfortunately, tackling the Sierras does not guarantee the AToC's first ever mountain-top finish as there are few towns in the mountains that can come up with the cash necessary to pay for a stage finish. If the race goes up and then back down into the Central Valley look for the same sprint finishes we experienced this year. Something is going to have to change with the race's business model before we will ever see a real mountain-top finish.

 

Overall, this change is a good thing for the race. The weather will almost surely be better and the best professional teams will still participate (though they may need some financial incentives to fly so far west in May). In it's short, 4-year history the race has shown that it can change and adapt to make itself a better event. Keep it coming!

 

Bruce

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