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Lance Armstrong to ride in the Tour of California

The 2010 race will be held in May, rather than February, and one stage will end in Big Bear. Armstrong and three-time champ Levi Leipheimer use Twitter to announce their participation.

October 23, 2009|Diane Pucin

Lance Armstrong will be back at the Amgen 2010 Tour of California, and for some that automatically makes it a race of choice for fans and media.

Armstrong's participation, his second in a row, will be as part of a newly formed American-based team, RadioShack, instead of Astana. And the race is at a new time and with new challenges.

Nothing if not trendy, tour officials arranged to have several cyclists, including Armstrong and three-time champion Levi Leipheimer, announce their participation and unveil route information via Twitter on Thursday morning.

Armstrong confirmed what was expected -- that the 38-year-old, who is into a second year of his comeback, would lead his new RadioShack team in the California race rather than participate in the Giro d'Italia, a race considered second only to the Tour de France.

Other top Americans in the field are national team time-trial winner Dave Zabriskie of Garmin-Slipstream and national road champion George Hincapie, who is riding for a new team, BMC.

The race, set for May 16-23, will begin in Nevada City and end in Thousand Oaks.

In a scripted tweetfest, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger questioned Armstrong about his possible participation. Armstrong tweeted, "Absolutely!@schwarzenegger, I've decided to ride the #Amgen Tour of California in 2010. Can't wait. What about you @levileipheimer??"

Once Leipheimer answered yes, the tweeting continued to Hincapie and Zabriskie.

Not known is which top European riders would participate because the race conflicts with the Giro, set for May 8-30.

But moving the Tour of California to May from February was applauded by riders. First, the weather in May is likely to be less stormy; rain plagued the race the last two years.

And riders long had said that to gain stature the Tour of California needed at least one true mountaintop finish. The May dates make that possible. It will be at the end of Stage 6, from Pasadena to Big Bear.

Leipheimer, who is from Santa Rosa and a member of the RadioShack team, said he is thrilled with that change.

"It's been a long time coming," he said. "I hear the Big Bear climb is going to be a big one. It's going to rival an Alpine stage at the Tour de France."

Zabriskie said choosing between the California race and the Giro was an easy one.

"I'm staying in California," he said. "For the European guys it might be a tougher decision, but if you're aiming for the Tour de France this is a great option. It's not quite as draining as the Giro."

Jonathan Vaughters, manager of Zabriskie's Garmin-Slipstream team, likes the Tour of California's new plan too.

"By far the best course we've had at this race. Mountains in Big Bear? A longer time trial in downtown Los Angeles? Good stuff," he said.

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diane.pucin@latimes.com

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