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Breukink sees Americans as favorites for California overall

SANTA ROSA, California (VN) — Rabobank manager Erik Breukink told VeloNews Sunday that while his team has brought three capable GC contenders, he sees the Amgen Tour of California overall battle as one likely to be won by an American rider.

Rabobank has brought Dutch climber Robert Gesink, a three-time winner of the best young rider’s competition in California, as well as compatriot Laurens Ten Dam, who finished third on Mount Baldy in 2011.

The team also brought Spaniard Luis León Sanchez, a prolific stage hunter who could prove to be a GC wildcard for the Dutch team. Already in 2012 Sanchez has won stages at Paris–Nice, Vuelta a Castilla y León and the Tour de Romandie, where he held the leader’s jersey.

“We brought several strong riders, but I think the whole race comes down to the time trial and Mount Baldy,” Breukink told VeloNews, suggesting that none of his riders has the balance of climbing and time-trial skill to be a true favorite.

Asked why Gesink hadn’t been invited to the pre-race press conference as a potential GC winner, Breukink explained that Gesink was traveling from a high-altitude training camp in Lake Tahoe, and had not arrived in Santa Rosa by the Friday afternoon gathering.

Still, Breukink said he predicted that an American rider would ultimately win the race, naming defending champion Chris Horner (RadioShack-Nissan) as the most likely GC threat.

“I would pick Horner,” Breukink said. “Horner is the favorite, and Garmin has two strong riders in Andrew Talansky and Tom Danielson. It’s an important race for our sponsors, Rabobank, but for the American riders, it’s the most important race of the year.”