The West Coast hosts the largest U.S. bike race ever — and this guy hopes to win

Rachel Levin

Levi Leipheimer, a 32-year-old pro rider who moved to NorthernCalifornia because of its "absolutely beautiful" roads, has reasonto be psyched this month. In the premiere Tour of California, 21world-class teams will wind and climb 700 miles throughout thestate, starting in San Francisco and heading over the Golden GateBridge to Sausalito, then along the Big Sur coast from the MontereyPeninsula to San Luis Obispo, up into the Santa Ynez Mountains inSanta Barbara, and ending oceanside at Redondo Beach.

"I'm looking forward to all of it," Leipheimer says. "This isthe crown jewel of the American calendar."

With many of the same teams and riders coming to the PacificCoast also participating in July's Tour de France, the intensitylevel could equal that of the 93-year-old competition. More than amillion spectators are expected to head for the coast for theevent, and ESPN2 will air an hour of the competition nightly.

The first stage of the eight-day race finishes in Leipheimer'shometown of Santa Rosa, where thousands of his neighbors ―along with his wife, Odessa, and their two Chihuahuas (Bandit andTrooper, dressed in miniature Team Gerolsteiner jerseys) ―will line the streets.

Leipheimer, one of America's new darlings in this post-LanceArmstrong era, has his sights set high. "I'd love to winCalifornia."

Info: Check out www.tourofcalifornia.comfor details on the race.

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