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CYCLING

Amgen Tour to Cover California

January 18, 2006|Dan Arritt | Times Staff Writer

Tour de France team champion Discovery Channel and Team CSC, the world's top-ranked cycling team, will be among those competing in the inaugural Amgen Tour of California, a 600-mile road race starting Feb. 19 in San Francisco and ending Feb. 26 in Redondo Beach.

Sanctioned by Union Cycliste International and USA Cycling, the 16-team field will be split among teams that compete on the UCI pro circuit and those that race predominantly in the United States, creating one of the most internationally diverse groups ever assembled for a domestic professional stage race.

"The field is going to be very attractive," said Johan Bruyneel, manager for the Discovery Channel team.

The event is being staged by AEG, which owns and operates Staples Center and Home Depot Center. Amgen, the title sponsor, is a Thousand Oaks-based biotechnology firm that sponsors its own cycling team.

Bob Colarossi, managing director of Amgen Tour of California and AEG Cycling, said the goal of his organization is to bring a scaled-down version of the Tour de France to the U.S.

"In putting the course together, we found it was more difficult to decide where not to go, than where to go," Colarossi said. "California offers so much."

The event is scheduled to be broadcast nightly on ESPN2, with the host cities serving as a backdrop during the telecasts.

The race will begin with 1.9-mile time trials along the Embarcadero in San Francisco. The opening stages will take the 128 competitors through Sausalito, Santa Rosa, Martinez, San Jose, Monterey and San Luis Obispo.

After a four-mile climb to San Marcos pass during the fifth stage, competitors will descend to the Santa Barbara coast. The sixth stage ends at Amgen's headquarters in Thousand Oaks. The following day, the race concludes with a 10-lap circuit race in Redondo Beach.

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