George Bennett of Jumbo-Visma and Hamish Schreurs of the Israel Cycling Academy will get underway today at the Amgen Tour of California. The seven-day race begins in Sacramento, with Bennett returning to the race he won back in 2017.
After a year’s hiatus from the event to concentrate on last year’s Giro d’Italia which he finished 8th in, George Bennett is back to the race that gave him his first World Tour GC triumph. History was made back in 2017 when Bennett took the overall lead on the penultimate stage of the race in the individual time trial starting and finishing at Big Bear Lake. It was a lead he defended successfully in the final stage to Pasadena; leading to him becoming the first World Tour GC winner for New Zealand.
So far in 2019 it’s been a case of mixed results for Bennett. The European campaign started strongly with 6th overall in Paris-Nice, but fell back in Itzulia Basque Country. While the big goals for Bennett this year lie in the latter stages of the season – with the Vuelta a Espana the grand tour focus in 2019 – the Tour of California is a race Bennett knows and loves dearly (and understandably has fond memories of).
As reported by Stuff, Bennett said, “I’ve always had a good time at California. I’ve done it four times now and I’ve always been good and I’ve always loved it. It’s such a cool race and such a cool place and it’s a different feel to racing in Europe. It’s not necessarily any easier than Europe with the guys who are coming over and how many World Tour teams there are now.”
In the four editions Bennett has raced the Amgen Tour of California – 2012, 2014, 2016 and 2017 – his last two outings at the race have seen him place in the top ten on GC; winning in 2017 and finishing 7th in 2016.
Jumbo-Visma’s Sports director Grischa Niermann has stated that this week will be about George in terms of the GC campaign, with teammate Danny van Poppel likely to contest the sprint finishes. “Our goal is to go for a good GC with George. The most important stages are the second, third and sixth. The other stages will probably end in a sprint where Danny can go for a good result,” he said.
By contrast, Hamish Schreurs will be debuting at the Amgen Tour of California. The former U23 national champion has experience in American racing in the past, racing at last year’s Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah.
The season so far for Schreurs has been a very diverse one for the 25 year old, with racing in Argentina, Turkey, France, Taiwan, Belgium, Italy and Spain. Most recently Schreurs was part of the Israel Cycling Academy team for the Vuelta Asturias Julio Alvarez Mendo which saw teammate Krists Neilands finish second on GC behind Movistar’s Richard Carapaz.
Racing begins in the Tour of California in Sacramento before heading to South Lake Tahoe in stage 2. The big summit finish stage is on stage 6 to Mount Baldy.