As the Amgen Tour of California gets ready to start, Team Jelly Belly’s (and future Team Rapha cyclocross team member) Jeremy Powers was profiled recently by Cyclocross Magazine … and the first sentence in the article got my gander up.

Not because of anything J-Pow related, but because of short phrase:

Jeremy Powers (Jelly Belly) is looking lean and fit heading into the 2011 Amgen Tour of California, and he hopes to build on last season’s successful ride at the fourth-biggest stage race in the world.

via A Ride and a Chat with Jeremy Powers at the Rapha Gentlemen’s Ride in San Francisco | Cyclocross Magazine.

The Amgen Tour of California is hardly the 4th biggest stage race in the world when you consider not only the rankings and caliber of the teams entered, but the ranking of the event itself by the UCI, and its very, very short history.

Yes, as a UCI 2.HC ranked event, AToC has a world-class group of riders, but only 9 of the 18 UCI ProTour teams are represented, whereas in races like Paris-Nice, the Tour of Switzerland, the Dauphine-Libere (and other similar UCI ProTour races), all 18 ProTour teams are represented.

In fact, any stage race with an HIS (Historical Calendar) or UPT (UCI ProTour) ranking is considered a bigger race than the Tour of California on just about every scale except perhaps its familiarity to the casual American cycling fan.

The Tour of California is the definitely biggest and most important stage race in the United States, may well be the 4th most important race to the various American-sponsored teams in the UCI ProTour, and is well worthy of being feted for the incredible event that it is, but hyping it beyond its actual importance is an affront to the history and traditions of our sport.

No event that has only been in existence for 6 years deserves to be ranked as importantly as events that have been ongoing for 60-70 (or even more) years, events that have been contested and won by the biggest stars of international cycling.

And that bugs the hell out of me.

Perhaps the Tour of California will one day become as storied and important as these other races, but American stage races have a history of fizzling out after a few years when the original sponsors feel they have gotten as much as they can out of their sponsorship, and no new sponsor steps up to take the reins. So until the Tour of California not only survives a cessation of sponsorship from Amgen, but moves into its second or third decade, don’t call it the 4th biggest stage race in the world.