May 11, 2014 in Sports

Wiggins the cycling favorite in Tour of California

Dave Skretta Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

British cyclist Bradley Wiggins aims for quick start in Tour of California.
(Full-size photo)

Bradley Wiggins might be the only one who doesn’t consider himself the overwhelming favorite to win the Tour of California when it begins today in Sacramento.

The former Tour de France champion and leader of Team Sky’s British invasion has identified one of America’s premier stage races as one of his priorities this season. But he also believes it could come down to the final days, perhaps even the finishing stages next weekend.

“I don’t think the mountaintop finishes are as straightforward as they look,” he said.

Still, the overall classification figures to be sorted out in those mountains, including the Stage 3 ride up Mount Diablo on Tuesday and the climb up Mountain High on Friday. The race ends on May 18 over the same circuit in Thousand Oaks that concluded the 2010 edition.

Defending champion Tejay van Garderen is not competing this year, instead focusing on the Tour de France in July. But his BMC Racing Team still has aspirations of challenging Wiggins on the eight-day, 720-mile journey down the Pacific coast to the finish near Pasadena, anointing Peter Stetina their best shot for standing on the podium.

“We brought a real strong team,” said Stetina, who lives in Santa Rosa. “We checked all the boxes, like Taylor (Phinney) for the time trial. I’m really honored as a new rider that the team put the faith in me to charge the team’s goal to defend Tejay’s title.”

Phinney, a U.S. Olympian, figures to be the favorite over Wiggins in the lone time trial, a 12.5-mile ride Monday around the 1850s gold-boom town of Folsom. Otherwise, he will mostly ride in support of his young teammate as he tries to win his home race.

“Everyone is pointing to Wiggins as the odds-on favorite, and he’s stated it’s important for him and his sponsors to win here,” Phinney said. “But everyone is going to be looking at him. It’s not really a field where you can pick one guy.”

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