The boys of Bontrager-LIVESTRONG came to the Amgen Tour of California for the experience, the education of riding North America’s biggest bike race. Most wouldn’t consider them contenders for the GC. A good day might land one of them on the podium for a stage. As their team liaison from Trek, Matt Shriver, put it, “Every day is its own opportunity.”
After throwing haymakers the month before at the Tour of the Gila, and coming out of it with the team overall, a rider in third on GC, and an impressive 1-2 stage win on the Gila Monster, the Tour of California is a different arena altogether for the young team. Instead of being the big dogs in the pack, they’re the smallest (in stature, palmarés, and support staff), and instead of being the most recognized, they’re easily overshadowed by European titans of the peloton.
But we’re almost at the halfway point of the race and Josh Atkins has been wearing the best young rider jersey since day one (in 2nd place, as GC leader Peter Sagan technically owns it, but can’t wear both jerseys), and is in 8th place on the GC, with Lawson Craddock in 10th. Bontrager-LIVESTRONG riders consistently finish in the top 20 with coordinated final-kilometer organization for sprinter and former junior world champ Jasper Stuyven, even in the blazing-fast sprints that make up the first four stages.
If they’re here to learn, they’re learning quickly, and, as one race announcer put it, “these kids are punching well above their weight.” From here, the race hits some serious climbing, and will only get exponentially harder for the talented young crew. As their website states, loud and clear “Riding with us isn’t about your talent. It’s about what you decide to do with it.” And what the Bontrager-LIVESTRONG team is doing is some impressive racing that you don’t want to miss.
Get the inside scoop with our exclusive access to Trek teams at the Amgen Tour of California. Follow us on twitter at @TrekBikes. We'll be live-Tweeting from the Bontrager-LIVESTRONG follow-car all day during Thursday's time trial in Bakersfield. Post what you want to see in the comments, or tweet us up!