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Leipheimer and Armstrong to face the best of Saxo Bank, HTC and BMC
Radioshack team boss Johan Bruyneel confirmed his squad for the Amgen Tour of California this week, listing off the riders on his personal blog, johanbruyneel.com.
The team is built around Levi Leipheimer, who is seeking a fourth straight title in his home race. Bruyneel confirmed he will be joined by fellow Americans Lance Armstrong, Chris Horner and Jason McCartney as well as Jani Brajkovic, Dmitriy Muravyev, Yaroslav Popovych and Jose Luis Rubiera.
The race overlaps with the Giro d'Italia, and because of its sponsor, the team chose to focus on the Tour of California at the expense of the Italian Grand Tour.
"For teams with an American-based sponsor (like ourselves), the interests are really high in California," Bruyneel wrote.
"HTC Columbia brings Mark Cavendish; Saxo Bank Cancellara, Schleck and Voigt; while Rabobank – having a lot of offices on the West Coast - comes with a strong roster too. BMC is stronger than they've ever been before with George Hincapie. This will certainly be the most competitive field since the race started in 2006."
"We have to start the Amgen Tour of California with our best team. I found it inappropriate to start with a B-team in the Giro," Bruyneel said. "There are too many strong teams at the Giro and I think that you always have to start with ambition in a Grand Tour, which lasts three weeks. ... Our decision apparently was not very welcomed. A few weeks later, our team was not invited to Tirreno-Adriatico, which is also organized by RCS."
Despite his team's decision to focus on the American race, Bruyneel indicated he did not think the Tour of California would surpass the importance of the Giro d'Italia in the future.
"Many people wonder if the Amgen Tour of California can be – in the future – a competitor for the Giro d'Italia. Personally I don't think so. California currently has only eight 'big' teams. The rest of the field is completed with domestic or regional teams. Many riders prefer to stay in Europe as opposed to travel to the US in May and get accustomed to the 9 hour time difference.
"On top of that, you have the history and tradition of a three week Grand Tour, as opposed to a relatively new race. That's nothing against the Tour of California - As we've seen in the past, it's a great race with it's own advantages and appeal."