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UHC’s Sutherland ambitious for “special” Amgen Tour

DONNER PASS, California (VN) – Rory Sutherland is back from Europe and ready to make a run at the Amgen Tour of California. Appearing as a guest on VeloLive Saturday, Sutherland (UnitedHealthcare) said his squad suffers from what he called the “luxury problem” of a three-headed GC attack in the weeklong race.

“We have guys like (Charly Wegelius and Christian Meier) who can come in the top 10 here if not higher,” said Sutherland, who finished seventh overall in 2010 after missing out by one spot on the win of the queen stage at Big Bear Lake.

UHC has rarely raced in the United States this season, and the team’s stage race squad made its first appearance on home soil Monday when the Amgen Tour opened in Nevada City, California. Sutherland said the European assignment has been mixed between experiences like a broken-down bus at the team’s first race, the Volta ao Algarve, and Meier’s eighth-overall their last, the Vuelta a Asturias.

“It’s been up and down, but luckily we’ve got a great group of guys and a fantastic staff to help us through it and we really seem to be coming to the fore right now,” said Sutherland.

The Aussie, whose first race in the U.S. was the 2007 Amgen Tour, said he had ambitions to top Liquigas-Cannondale’s Peter Sagan, the one rider to better him at Big Bear.

“He’s pretty quick,” said Sutherland. “I’ve been looking at the stages and there’s not a whole lot of stages I think it’s possible to come down to a group of 15. There’s going to be ones or twos on the mountaintops and 50 or 80 guys in some of the other ones. I’m ambitious and that doesn’t mean I’m not going to try.”