It’s almost been three weeks since the last race of the UCI Women’s WorldTour, the Tour of Chongming Island, wrapped up in China. While the men’s Tour of California has been rolling for the last four day, with Tejay van Garderen in the race lead, the women’s edition kicks off on Thursday in Elk Grove. The official title is Amgen Breakaway From Heart Disease Women’s Race Empowered With SRAM.

It’s the first time the race has been held over three stages instead of four since 2015. The course is a mountain sandwich: two flat sprinter’s stages to begin and end the race with climbing in the middle stage.

Most of the top teams like Boels-Dolmans, Mitchelton-Scott and Canyon-SRAM have opted not to race in California but to instead contest the WorldTour Emakumeen Bira in Spain, so the riders at the top of the WorldTour standings have little to fear for their positions. However, the top two riders in the youth category, Sofia Bertizzola (Italy/Astana) and Liane Lippert (Germany/Sunweb) are ready to face off.

There’s a solid Canadian presence among the 85 riders; Rally Cycling leads the way with a quartet: Sara Poidevin, Kristi Lay, Sara Bergen and Katherine Maine. Poidevin kicked off her 2018 campaign with second place in the Tour of the Gila, while Bergen was second at both the Joe Martin Stage Race and the Redlands Classic.

Team Tibco-SVB’s Alison Jackson had a heavy spring one-day schedule during which she took 17th in both Liege-Bastogne-Liege and Gent-Wevelgem.

Track aces Jasmin Duehring and Stephanie Roorda represent Sho-Air Twenty20.

The Tour of California marks the first WorldTour race for Canadian Rebecca Beaumont, who only recently signed with American squad Team Illuminate. Beaumont’s first event after she joined Illuminate on May 5 was the Panorama Guizhou International in China.

Although her Boels-Dolmans squad isn’t in California, American Megan Guarnier, winner of the 2016 edition, will be on a USA Cycling Team outfit. Last year’s runner-up Katie Hall (USA/UnitedHealthcare) recently won both the Tour of the Gila and the Joe Martin. Another American, Coryn Rivera of Sunweb, will be looking for stage victories.

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