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Jeremy Vennell: My favourite race
May 11th, 12. Of the four Kiwis racing the Amgen Tour of California, only Jeremy Vennell has raced it before - this is his 4th time, as he told RoadCycling.co.nz
The Tour of California is the biggest race in Bissell Pro Cycling's calendar, a chance for the UCI Continental team to race alongside pro-continental and World Tour teams and gain worldwide coverage doing so.
The eight stage race is one of the 31 year old Vennell's favourite races.
"The roads are spectacular, the weather is generally pretty good, and great crowds.
"You wake up with a smile on your face and know that you have a really cool race ahead of you. You even feel kind of empty when you finish this race, you have to wait another whole year to the next one," he told RoadCycling.co.nz
The Hawkes Bay rider is bringing good form to this tour. He has had a solid lead up with the Tour of the Gila, the Joe Martin Stage Classic and before that the Tour of the Battenkill.
He has been on the podium already this season, on and off his favoured time trial bike, and his dream result would be to do it again next week.
"I would like to go better than my 8th place in the time trial last year. Every year I have improved my place in the time trial - I haven't done this course before, but I think it will suit me. Hopefully I can go Top 5 or maybe even on the podium. I think I've got it in me if I have a good day – I'm excited about that."
There is one other day besides the Stage 5 29.7km time trial that Vennell is targetting - the opening stage in his Santa Rosa home town where he, wife Anita and baby Charlotte live.
"The dream would be to be in the breakaway on Sunday in my home race – and stay away all the way to the finish."
Patrick Bevin's goals
Although Vennell calls this race the same as any other - just with much bigger crowds, for his Kiwi teammate Patrick Bevin, getting his first start in a field stacked with the world's best riders is a huge deal.
As well as playing his role in the team tactics - Bevin said making the break on the hill top finish would be exciting - the Taupo 21 year old has a big personal goal in mind.
"First and foremost I want to get totally involved in one of the bunch sprints. There should be a couple of opportunities to do so," he told RoadCycling.co.nz while acknowledging that just being in position to contest the sprint is a difficult task.
"All the days are hard!"
This year's course
This year's Tour of California route starts at sea-level and the weather forecast is great - unlike last year's edition when the opening stage had to be cancelled due to snow, freezing temperatures and icy conditions up the mountain top start!
Every year the organisers call the route the hardest ever, but Vennell does not think it can get any harder. To him though, it comes down to how the course is ridden.
"It's all how you race the course. If everyone races full on from start to finish then that's what makes the Tour hard. Sometimes when the course is really really tough, then it's actually a lot easier because it's not raced as hard.
"Often it's the stages that aren't so tough that are the hardest because more people think they can have a crack at winning so it makes for a very fast and difficult ride from start to finish."
Vennell's advice for first time Kiwis
His number 1 advice, "Enjoy the tour. Number 2 advice, "Paddy better win!" he joked.
On a serious note, Vennell would tell the young Kiwis to ride close to the front.
"Riding close to the front is pretty important when you get to the big climbs, stay out for trouble and look out for the big pot holes!"
Bissell's team goals - attack
Every year Bissell is out the front in breakaways, and that is exactly what they will be doing this year too. Vennell was out the front of the peloton in two stages last year and expects to be back there again.
"It's how we roll, every year we have done the some thing. It's actually pretty difficult to get into the break - you need a bit of luck, and you have to be riding very strong to be able to make the break."
"To be in the break is so important for the team because the chances of winning the stage for us are very small, so you have to take those opportunities and one day one of those breaks may stay away."
Related to the sponsor TV time from riders in the breakaways, the team is also eyeing each day's Most Aggressive Rider jersey and will be looking at the opportunity to claim the KOM jersey.
"Every stage suits a different rider in our team," Vennell said. "We have a couple of altitude climbers who suit the last couple of days when we go into the big mountains by Los Angeles, and we have fast finishers for the sprints - including Paddy."
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