Sixteen teams, each comprising eight riders, will be vying for glory starting May 12. Here are individuals to watch, with their teams listed in parentheses.
Peter Sagan: The fastest man on two wheels in last year’s Amgen Tour of California, this Slovak cyclist collected five stage wins with torrid sprint finishes. The 23-year-old will have his sights set on the finish lines in Santa Barbara and Avila Beach this year. (Cannondale Pro Cycling, Italy)
Chris Horner: This American will try to bring the title back to America. As the oldest winner of the Amgen Tour in 2011 — a record that he can break again at 41 years old — he told Cycling News that he expects to be fully recovered from a knee injury when he pushes off from Escondido. (RadioShack-Leopard-Trek, Luxembourg)
Tejay van Garderen: A young rider to follow, this 24-year-old native of Tacoma, Washington, sharpened his cycling skills in Colorado and followed up his fourth-place finish in California last year with a fifth place in the Tour de France. (BMC Racing Team, U.S.A.)
Tyler Farrar: His team has won stages in all three Grand Tours (France, Spain and Italy). (Team Garmin-Sharp, U.S.A.)
Philippe Gilbert: The 2012 world road champion is from Belgium. (BMC Racing Team, U.S.A.)
Tom Boonen: This Belgian is an aggressive rider who has survived many crashes. (Omega Pharma–Quick-Step, Belgium)
Timmy Duggan: The reigning U.S. road champ and 2012 Olympian is from Colorado. (Team Saxo-Tinkoff, Denmark)
J.J. Haedo: This Argentine sprinter is the past winner of California stages. (Team Jamis-Hagens Berman, U.S.A.)
Gang Xu: The top rider on the Chinese team is a four-time national champion. (Champion System Pro Cycling Team, China)
Robert Gesink (not competing): Winning last year’s overall title because he was the strongest rider in the mountain stages, this Dutch star and his team will stay in Europe this month to compete in the Giro d’Italia.
Other Teams: Orica GreenEdge, Australia; Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team, the Netherlands; Team NetApp-Endura, Germany; UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team, U.S.A.; 5-Hour Energy presented by Kenda Racing Team, U.S.A.; Bissell Pro Cycling, U.S.A.; Bontrager Cycling Team, U.S.A.; and Optum Pro Cycling presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies, U.S.A.