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Saturday, February 14, 2009

Tour of California 2009

In a matter of hours (3:30 p.m. Central Time), the Amgen Tour of California gets under way with the 2.4-mile prologue. Cycling broadcaster Phil Liggett has ranked it "as the fourth or fifth biggest race in the world,'' and who am I to doubt him!

Clearly, the vast majority of eyes will be upon Lance Armstrong, who is racing for the first time in the United States since ending his retirement, But Armstrong insists he will be riding in support of Astana teammate and two-time defending Tour of California champion Levi Leipheimer.

The eyes also be on a group of former dopers, including
Ivan Basso, Tyler Hamilton, David Millar and Floyd Landis, who won the 2006 Tour of California before later that year stripped of his Tour de France championship. The San Jose Mercury News likens the field to the "equivalent to inviting Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Jason Giambi and Alex Rodriguez to play ball."

But it's possible the winner could be someone like defending Tour de France champion Carlos Sastre, defending Tour of Missouri champion Christian Vande Velde and American cycling legend George Hincapie.

I'l try to cover the race the best I can from 2,000 miles away, but I suggest you follow some of the links on the right side of the page to get up-to-date coverage from people who are there. You also might want to follow California-based blogs such as Cyclelicious to get the inside story. You also can watch it on Versus, which is airing the Tour of California with nearly the same frequency as it does the Tour de France. (Note: The times listed on the Versus schedule are Eastern Time.)

The Tour of California site is offering a live tracker of the event, and you can watch the race for free at Cycling TV.

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