Escondido, Calif. - The Champion System Pro Cycling Team experienced the most intense heat seen this season as temperatures soared above 105 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius) on Sunday's opening stage of the Amgen Tour of California.
"Everybody suffered," Champion System General Manager Ed Beamon said. "I think at the end of this race, it isn't going to be about who was the best climber, sprinter or time trialist. It's going to depend on who handled the heat the best."
Champion System's Bobbie Traksel, who was starting his first race since knee surgery in April, said the heat definitely affected his performance.
"This may be the hottest I've ever seen it," said Traksel, winner of the most aggressive jersey at the Tour of Oman. "I like the cold weather. I have no problems with that, so now it is the opposite for me."
The opening stage of the eight-day race was a 165-kilometer circuit around Escondido featuring two climbs. Marsh Cooper (Optum presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies), Zak Dempster (Team NetApp-Endura) and James Stemper (5-Hour Energy presented by Kenda) attacked after 16 kilometers. Carter Jones (Bissell Pro Cycling) bridged up to make it a four-man escape and they gained a lead of more than 10 minutes over the peloton. But the climb up to Mt. Palomar took its toll on the escapees, with Dempster falling off first. The last of the breakaway riders was brought back within the final 10 kilometers.
Immediately, Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil-DCM Procycling Team) attacked. Champion System's Ryan Roth, who had been reminded by Beamon to be vigilant for a late move, attempted to catch the Dutch rider. But the Canadian national road champion could not get across while only Franciso Mancebo (5-Hour Energy p/b Kenda) caught Westra. At the finish, Westra outsprinted Mancebo while Chad Beyer was Champion System's best-placed rider in 12th, six seconds behind.
"Beyer was our least affected rider, being from Tucson," said Beamon. "Even he said he wasn't used to heat like this."
Monday's Stage 2 begins in Murrieta and features nearly 3,000 meters of climbing before a summit finish in Greater Palm Springs. Temperatures are expeceted to be similar to Stage 1 and Beamon said the stage is an important day for the overall.
"Tomorrow is such an important GC day," Beamon said. "If you go bad tomorrow, you might not be able to get it back."