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Powerhouse peloton for fifth Amgen Tour of California

The final 2009 Tour of California podium is all smiles (l-r): Michael Rogers, 3rd; Levi Leipheimer, 1st; and David Zabriskie, 2nd.

The final 2009 Tour of California podium is all smiles (l-r): Michael Rogers, 3rd; Levi Leipheimer, 1st; and David Zabriskie, 2nd.
(Image credit: Mitch Clinton)

AEG Sports, organizers of the Amgen Tour of California today announced the 16 teams invited to participate in the eight-staged event set to begin in Nevada City on May 16 and conclude in Agoura Hills on May 23.

Highlighted amongst the world-class peloton is Team RadioShack returning with its three-time defending champion Levi Leipheimer and seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong.

In its fifth year running, the peloton is bolstered by participating ProTour teams HTC-Columbia, Quick Step, Saxo Bank, Garmin-Transitions, Rabobank and Liquigas-Doimo. Professional Continental teams on the roster include Cervelo TestTeam and BMC Racing.

There were seven US-based Continental teams invited to this year’s event including Bissell Pro Cycling, UnitedHealthcare p/b Maxxis, Jelly Belly p/b Kenda, SpiderTech p/b Planet Energy, Fly V Australia, Team Type 1 and Kelly Benefit Strategies.

“These teams, with the riders we expect to compete, represent the one of the strongest fields we have had at the Amgen Tour of California. Our move to May means that we will have Tour de France contenders in prime form racing here in the Golden State,” said Andrew Messick, president of AEG Sports, presenter of the race.

“We also are pleased to have a selection of top North American-based Continental teams, who will have a chance to compete with some of the world’s best riders.”

The race was moved from its traditional February slot on the UCI racing calendar to its new position in May this year. It will now conflict with the Giro d’ Italia, forcing the invited ProTour and Professional Continental teams to divide.

It was recently announced that multiple Tour de France and Giro d’ Italia stage winner Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia) has chosen to skip the Italy’s Grand Tour and compete in the Tour of California instead. His teammate Michael Rogers placed third overall last year and will also be present.

Other riders that have chosen to race stateside include last year’s runner up overall Dave Zabriskie (Garmin-Transitions), former World Champion Tom Boonen (Quick Step) and Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Doimo) as well as Saxo Bank's Andy Schleck and Fabian Cancellara.

Among the US-based teams, Ben Day (Fly V Australia) recently won the season’s first National Racing Calendar (NRC) race at the Redlands Bicycle Classic. He placed eighth overall in the 2007 edition of the Amgen Tour of California and pointed to the race as being major season target for his team.

"The Tour of California is a very big goal for us," Day said following his overall title win at the Redlands Bicycle Classic. "That is what our focus is on now. It's pretty hard tackling the ProTour guys after they've been racing the ProTour races in Europe. They are racing so hard week in and week out. If we can go there and have a good showing, win a stage or two, animate and be a part of the race and if I could have a good general classification result, then we will be very happy with that."

The selected teams have not yet announced their full participating rosters.