Bissell Cycling training ride, Skaggs Springs to King Ridge Road, Santa Rosa (Photos by Casey Gibson)

By BOB NORBERG
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Those riders in the red, white and black riding uniforms last week were the Bissell Pro Cycling Team, in Sonoma County for a four-day, pre-season camp.

It also gave them the opportunity to scout the opening stage of the Amgen Tour of California, in which they are expecting to compete.

And they were impressed.

“It’s pretty cool, it’s an amazing route,” said Patrick Bevin, 21, of Taupo, New Zealand. “First you have to get up Fort Ross Road, and then you have to get over Coleman Valley.”

The first stage of the eight-day tour, May 13, will start and finish in downtown Santa Rosa.

Riders will do a couple of parade laps around down, take a loop to downtown Windsor, return to downtown Santa Rosa, then generally follow the King Ridge GranFondo route to Cazadero.

At Cazadero, instead of King Ridge, they’ll do Fort Ross Road, Meyers Grade and Highway 1 to Coleman Valley Road, then back through Occidental to downtown Santa Rosa.

“It’s really difficult,” said Chris Baldwin, 36, of Boulder, Colo., a pro rider since 1999. “But the course always seems more difficult in training, you aren’t protected by the large pack.

“It’s a hard stage,” said team general manager Glen Mitchell. “It’s not a stage that will define who wins the tour, but it is a tough stage.”

Bissell is a Continental team, the lowest of the three rungs of professional racing and a feeder to the next level up, the Continental Pro teams, and then to the Pro Teams.

As such, Bissell will do all of its racing in North America, Mitchell said.

Mitchell, a New Zealand transplant, now lives in Santa Rosa, where the Bissell team is officially based, with a warehouse for its bikes, equipment and vehicles.

The team is also counting on getting an invitation from tour owner AEG Sports of Los Angeles, which Bissell has had the past two years.

AEG is expected to announce the teams by the end of this month. Eight of the teams will be Pro Tour.

“This is where we get to ride with the best riders in the world, this is the big leagues,” said Mitchell said.

“I’d love to be on that start line. It is the biggest race for Bissell,” Bevin said.

You can reach Staff Writer Bob Norberg at 521-5206 or bob.norberg@
pressdemocrat.com.