Levi Leipheimer, a 32-year-old pro rider who moved to Northern California because of its "absolutely beautiful" roads, has reason to be psyched this month. In the premiere Tour of California, 21 world-class teams will wind and climb 700 miles throughout the state, starting in San Francisco and heading over the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito, then along the Big Sur coast from the Monterey Peninsula to San Luis Obispo, up into the Santa Ynez Mountains in Santa Barbara, and ending oceanside at Redondo Beach.
"I'm looking forward to all of it," Leipheimer says. "This is the crown jewel of the American calendar."
With many of the same teams and riders coming to the Pacific Coast also participating in July's Tour de France, the intensity level could equal that of the 93-year-old competition. More than a million spectators are expected to head for the coast for the event, and ESPN2 will air an hour of the competition nightly.
The first stage of the eight-day race finishes in Leipheimer's hometown of Santa Rosa, where thousands of his neighbors ― along with his wife, Odessa, and their two Chihuahuas (Bandit and Trooper, dressed in miniature Team Gerolsteiner jerseys) ― will line the streets.
Leipheimer, one of America's new darlings in this post-Lance Armstrong era, has his sights set high. "I'd love to win California."
Info: Check out www.tourofcalifornia.com for details on the race.