The Amgen Tour of California is ready for its second staging, starting in San Francisco on FebruaryIMAGE BY TOUR OF CALIFORNIA Typically, a 700-mile week on the bicycle would be daunting to most racers, but to the participants of the 2007 Amgen Tour of California, a chance to delay or escape the gruelling European weather is most attractive. Plus, several American pros relish the chance to perform on home soil, and the ToC brings homeboys Levi Leipheimer (Discovery), Fred Rodriguez (Predictor-Lotto) and Chris Horner (Predictor-Lotto) onto familiar tarmac. The tour will feature 18 elite professional cycling teams from around the world competing for the highest prize purse of any race in North America. It will showcase nearly 700 miles of scenic California highways, roadways and coastline drives. Host cities include: San Francisco, Sausalito, Santa Rosa, Sacramento, Stockton, San Jose, Seaside, San Luis Obispo, Solvang, Santa Barbara, Santa Clarita and Long Beach. With the notable exclusion of inaugural winner Floyd Landis, top honours are up for grabs. An all-American podium is highly likely, and with the powerhouse Discovery roster that includes last year's king of the mountains winner Leipheimer, George Hincapie, Ivan Basso, and Tom Danielson, overall victory will be hard fought and well deserved. The team is returning to California with four top ten final finishers from the inaugural event. Last year, Toyota-United lit up the crowds with stage one and stage four victories by the virtually unknown JJ Haedo. Toyota-United was the only US-based team to see the Tour's top podium spot. Haedo has since moved on to Denmark's Team CSC, which won the team classification in 2006, and had three cyclists finish in the final overall top ten with time trial phenom David Zabriskie taking second and veteran Bobby Julich taking third overall. With Zabriskie and Haedo on the team, Team CSC will be looking for time trial and stage wins on the way to taking the overall team classification. T-Mobile has undergone a major revamp, now featuring such world-class cyclists as three-time world TT champion Michael Rogers (Aus), Axel Merckx (Bel), and North Americans Michael Barry (Can) and Aaron Olson (USA). T-Mobile Team won the final two stages and the overall sprint classification in the 2006 ToC and rounded out the year with three Tour de France stage wins and the overall Tour of Switzerland title. Perennial powerhouse Predictor-Lotto (formerly Davitamon-Lotto) brings crowd favourites Rodriguez, Horner, Cadel Evans (Aus), and Robbie McEwen (Aus) to the front of the peloton. The team started 2006 out strong with a third place overall team finish in the '06 ToC. Predictor-Lotto has since had 39 wins including three stages and the overall of the Tour of Romandie, three stage wins at the Tour de France, and three Giro d'Italia stage wins. Belgian team Quick Step-Innergetic is a world champion breeding machine (2006 winner, Paolo Bettini (Ita), will fly the rainbow jersey up and down the California coast, much to the satisfaction of local bike sponsor Specialized). Since it began four years ago, the team has won 155 UCI races and five world championship titles including two road titles: one by Bettini and Tom Boonen (Bel) in 2005. In only its second major US race, watch for this team to go for both stage wins and the general classification. Sadly for the women of California, Boonen will not be racing for the golden jersey, opting instead to race in Ruta Ciclista Del Sol, Omloop Het Volk and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne. Maybe next year, ladies! Click here for the full stage list and description. Start list ProTour teams 1.) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team (USA) Ivan Basso (Ita) Antonio "Tony" Cruz (USA) Tom Danielson (USA) George Hincapie (USA) Levi Leipheimer (USA) Jason Mccartney (USA) Tomas Vaitkus (Lit) Brian Vandborg (Den) 2.) Team CSC (Den) Fabian Cancellara (Sui) Juan Jose Haedo (Arg) Bobby Julich (USA) Karsten Kroon (Ned) Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Christian Vandevelde (USA) Jens Voigt (Ger) David "Dave" Zabriskie (USA) 3.) Quick Step-Innergetic (Bel) Paolo Bettini (Ita) Mauro Facci (Ita) Leonardo Scarselli (Ita) Bram Tankink (Ned) Matteo Tosatto (Ita) Jurgen Van De Walle (Bel) Geert Verheyen (Bel) Giovanni Visconti (Ita) 4.) Predictor-Lotto (Bel) Mario Aerts (Bel) Bart Dockx (Bel) Nick Gates (Aus) Chris Horner (USA) Nic Ingels (Bel) Josep Jufre Pou (Esp) Matthew Lloyd (Aus) Fred Rodriguez (USA) 5.) Rabobank Cycling Team (Ned) Mauricio Albert Ardila Cano (Col) Graeme Brown (Aus) Bram De Groot (Ned) Theo Eltink (Ned) Robert Gesink (Ned) Mathew Hayman (Aus) Grischa Niermann (Ger) Michael Rasmussen (Den) 6.) T-Mobile Team (Ger) Michael Barry (Can) Gerald Ciolek (Ger) Adam Hansen (Aus) Greg Henderson (Nzl) Kim Kirchen (Lux) Aaron Olson (USA) Jakob Piil (Den) Michael Rogers (Aus) 7.) Liquigas Pro Cycling Team (Itl) Kjell Carlstrom (Fin) Mauro Da Dalto (Ita) Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Luca Paolini (Ita) Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Manuel Quinziato (Ita) Charles Wegelius (Gbr) Frederik Willems (Bel) 8.) Crdit Agricole (Fra) Dimitri Fofonov (Kaz) Sebastien Hinault (Fra) Thor Hushovd (Nor) Mads Kaggestad (Nor) Christophe Kern (Fra) Christophe Laurent (Fra) Cyril Lemoine (Fra) Jean Marc Marino (Fra) 9.) Gerolsteiner (Ger) Robert Frster (Ger) Torsten Heikmann (Ger) Bernhard Kohl (Aut) Sven Krauss (Ger) Volker Ordowski (Ger) Fabian Wegmann (Ger) Peter Wrolich (Aut) Oliver Zaugg (Sui) Pro Continental teams 10.) Health Net Pro Cycling Team Presented By Maxxis (USA) Russell Downing (Gbr) Kyle Gritters (USA) Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Tim Johnson (USA) Karl Menzies (Aus) Shawn Milne (USA) Kirk O'Bee (USA) Rory Sutherland (Aus) 11.) Navigators Insurance Cycling Team (USA) Glen Chadwick (Nzl) Hilton Clarke (Aus) Ben Day (Aus) Valeriy Kobzarenko (Ukr) Sergey Lagutin (Uzb) Darren Lill (RSA) Viktor Rapinski (Blr) Phil Zajicek (USA) 12.) Team Slipstream Powered By Chipotle (USA) Steven Cozza (USA) Jason Donald (USA) Lucas Euser (USA) William Frischkorn (USA) Patrick Mccarty (USA) Danny Pate (USA) Thomas "Tom" Peterson (USA) Taylor Tolleson (USA) Continental Teams 13.) Toyota-United Pro Cycling Team (USA) Chris Baldwin (USA) Heath Blackgrove (Nzl) Ivan Dominguez (Cub) Justin England (USA) Mark Scanlon (Irl) Sean Sullivan (Aus) Henk Vogels (Aus) Chris Wherry (USA) 14.) BMC Racing Team (USA) Jonathan Garcia (USA) Ken Hanson (USA) Ian Mckissick (USA) Alex Moos (Sui) Scott Nydam (USA) Michael Sayers (USA) Jackson Stewart (USA) David Vitoria (Sui) 15.) Jelly Belly Cycling Team (USA) Andrew Bajadali (USA) Alex Candelario (USA) Brian Dziewa (USA) Brice Jones (USA) Mike Jones (USA) Bryce Mead (USA) Jeremy Powers (USA) Nick Reistad (USA) 16.) Colavita/Sutter Home Presented By Cooking Light Team (USA) Alejandro Acton (Arg) Gustavo Artacho (Arg) Anthony Colby (USA) Charles Dionne (Can) Davide Frattini (Ita) Peter Hatton (Aus) David Mccann (Irl) Tyler Wren (USA) 17.) Priority Health Cycling Team Presented By Bissell (USA) Emile Abraham (TTo) Ben Jacques-Maynes (USA) Edward "Ted" King (USA) Robbie King (USA) Garrett Peltonen (USA) Brian Sheedy (USA) Tom Zirbel (USA) Scott Zwizanski (USA) National Teams 18.) USA Cycling National Development Team (USA) Brent Bookwalter (USA) Sheldon Deeny (USA) John Devine (USA) Caleb Fairly (USA) Zachary Grabowski (USA) Scott Stewart (USA) Chris Stockburger (USA) Tejay Van Garderen (USA) Got a comment? Discuss this in the Procycling forum. What else is new? Check out the Procycling blog.