LOS ANGELES COUNTY, CA - MAY 21: (L-R) Rob Britton of Canada riding for Bissell Cycling, Grischa Niermann of Germany riding for Rabobank and George Hincapie of the BMC Racing Team work in the breakaway as they pass through the Angeles National Forest during stage seven of the 2011 AMGEN Tour of California from Claremont to Mt. Baldy on May 21, 2011 in Los Angeles County, California. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

2012 Tour of California: Minnesota's Optum Pro Cycling Competes In America's Biggest Bicycle Race

The 2012 Amgen Tour of California begins on Sunday, with Minnesota represented by the Minneapolis based Optum Pro Cycling team.

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Tour of California 2012 Teams: Minnesota's Optum Pro Cycling

Representing Minnesota in the 2012 Amgen Tour of California is Optum Pro Cycling, a Continental Level team founded in 2007 and based out of Minneapolis. The team has a balanced roster of young riders and veterans, with talent spread in time trialing, climbing, sprinting, and overall.

The team is one of the more successful lower-level teams in the tour: Optum has UCI Stage Race victories on four different contients, have placed podium spots at the USPRO Time Trial and Road Race Championships, and won the USPRO Criterium Championship. They are one of very few Continental teams to ever win a stage race at a major American UCI race.

Optum will be without one of their strongest riders, as climber Jesse Anthony got sick at the Tour of Korea and is not well enough to ride. He figured in last year's King of the Mountains competition and is a threat to win stages, so someone else from Optum will have to step up.

The team's best result in the ToC is a fifth place win, but sprinter Ken Hanson has his eye on changing that. Optum doesn't have the strength or experience needed to contend for the overall win, but they're an aggressive and tactically savvy squad. Look for them to put in big efforts on breakaways and contend for stage victories.

SB Nation Minnesota will have updates throughout the 2012 Tour of California, and as always SB Nation's excellent Podium Cafe has all the pro cycling news and analysis you need.

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