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Several of the sport's leading ProTour outfits have confirmed that they will be taking part in the first edition of the Tour of California, which will start with a prologue time trial on San Francisco's bayside on February 19.
It was no surprise to hear that the American Discovery Channel team had given their commitment to appear, but many non-ProTour races will be looking with envy at a field that will also include teams from T-Mobile, Gerolsteiner, Phonak, Crdit Agricole, Saunier Duval and Davitamon-Lotto. The US-based Health Net and Navigators teams will also be taking part, with seven more teams due to give their commitment to race in the coming weeks.
The 750-mile race comprises seven stages and the prologue, which takes place on the Embarcadero in San Francisco. The eight-day race finishes at Redondo Beach in the southern part of the state on February 26.
Gerolsteiner team leader Levi Leipheimer described himself as "very proud" as he took to the stand at the race launch in San Francisco. "Now we have a race to inspire the next generation of US cyclists," said the Californian rider. "The first stage comes into my home town of Santa Rosa, so I am looking forward to it. The Tour de France is getting nervous because this really is going to be the biggest cycling race in the world."
Race organisers AEG, who own a number of major sporting venues across the world including the Staples Center in Los Angeles and the Manchester Evening News Arena in the UK, hope that the race will quickly become one of cycling's biggest and most prestigious. "The event will celebrate not only the athleticism and grace of cycling but also the beauty of the state of California, which will be on display for everyone to see - both on television and in person along the route," said Timothy J. Leiweke, AEG's CEO and president. "It will soon take its place among the sport's best, most respected races."
AEG is investing $35 million in the event over the next five years with the long-term goal of making the race second in importance only to the Tour de France.
In addition to the pro race, the event will extend the cycling experience to the communities it touches with a unique week-long "rolling festival". Eight finish-line cities will offer health and wellness festival-style expos, including health screenings, information and entertainment.
US sports network ESPN2 will screen an hour's coverage from the event each day.
Prologue, Feb 19: San Francisco
Stage 1, Feb 20: Sausalito-Santa Rosa
Stage 2, Feb 21: Martinez-San Jose
Stage 3, Feb 22: San Jose time trial
Stage 4, Feb 23: Monterey-San Luis Obispo
Stage 5, Feb 24: San Luis Obispo-Santa Barbara
Stage 6, Feb 25: Santa Barbara-Thousand Oaks
Stage 7: Feb 26: Redondo Beach circuit race (9 laps)
For more information on the race and details on how you can volunteer to work on the event go to http://www.amgentourofcalifornia.com/
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