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Levi Leipheimer leads field for revamped Tour of California

Levi Leipheimer leads field for revamped Tour of California

Defending champion Levi Leipheimer will lead the embattled Astana team against a strong field from more than 25 countries in the revamped third Amgen Tour of California beginning on Sunday.
The eight-day, 667-mile (1,073-kilometer) race will begin with a 2-mile (3-kilometer) flat prologue individual time trial ending at Stanford University. The 17-team, 133-cyclist field will ride through 13 additional starting and finishing cities, beginning with the 97-mile (156-kilometer) stage 1 on Monday from Sausalito to Santa Rosa.
The race will continue through stages around Sacramento, Modesto, San Jose, Seaside, San Luis Obispo, Solvang and Santa Barbara, before concluding with stage 7 from Santa Clarita to Pasadena on Feb. 24.
Leipheimer finished third to Alberto Contador of Spain by 31 seconds last July in the Tour de France after winning the 19th stage time trial when the duo rode for the Discovery Channel team. The former team of seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong ended its sponsorship last year, and Leipheimer joined Astana along with Contador and team director Johan Bruyneel.
On Wednesday, Amaury Sport Organization _ owner of the Tour de France _ announced Astana would not be invited to this year's race because of its past problems with doping.
Last year, former Astana leader Alexandre Vinokourov of Kazakhstan was fired after testing positive for a blood transfusion during the 2007 Tour de France. Two other team riders also failed doping tests, and the Luxembourg-based squad replaced its management and implemented a new drug-testing policy along with hiring new riders and coaches.
In 2007, Leipheimer began the most successful year of his 12-year career by winning the uphill prologue of the Tour of California, then in San Francisco. Leipheimer retained his lead throughout the event while riding to a 21-second overall win over Jens Voigt (CSC) of Germany and a 54-second margin over teammate Jason McCartney.
Also returning to the Tour of California are Voigt; McCartney (now riding for CSC); Bobby Julich (CSC), who finished fourth last year; and Stuart O'Grady (CSC) of Australia, who placed fifth.
In addition to a new prologue circuit _ stage 3 from Modesto to San Jose _ the race will include an ascent of Mount Hamilton at 4,360 feet (1,330 meters). The finishing stage also has been adjusted to include the climb to Mill Creek Summit, the highest point ever in the event at 4,906 feet (1,495 meters).
The field will also include several world road and track and Olympic champions, including Paolo Bettini (Quick Step), teammate Tom Boonen (Quick Step) of Belgium and Fabian Cancellara (CSC) of Switzerland.
Sprinting specialist Juan Jose Haedo of Argentina, who has won a race-best four stages in the event's first two years, also will return.


Updated : 2021-10-19 23:16 GMT+08:00