The Amgen Tour of California cycling race for 2011 will have a visually spectacular mountaintop finish on the second-to-last stage at Mt. Baldy after beginning with a high-altitude first stage that takes cyclists around Lake Tahoe, organizers announced.
The May 15-22 event, America's largest stage race, will again feature a time trial in Solvang after a one-time move to downtown Los Angeles last spring.
In addition, race director Andrew Messick said the Claremont-to-Mt.-Baldy stage on May 21 will have riders climbing to 6,500 feet and evokes the L'Alpe d'Huez climb that is one of the most memorable stages of the Tour de France.
For the first time there won't be a stage finish in Santa Rosa, which has been plagued by rain in past years. Santa Rosa is the hometown of three-time champion Levi Leipheimer, whose winning streak ended last year with a victory by Michael Rogers.
The fifth stage, from Seaside to Paso Robles, will offer the most dramatic scenery, with part of the route on Pacific Coast Highway through Big Sur.
Messick said the drumbeat of negative news — an ongoing grand jury investigation into doping allegations that have peppered the career of Lance Armstrong and a failed drug test by Tour de France champion Alberto Contador — has not hurt the Tour of California.
No host cities were hesitant to be part of the race and no sponsorships have been lost, Messick said.
Johan Bruyneel backs Alberto Contador
Alberto Contador's former manager, Johan Bruyneel, supports the three-time Tour de France winner's claim that contaminated meat caused his positive doping test.
Contador has been provisionally suspended by the International Cycling Union after a trace of the banned substance clenbuterol was discovered in his urine sample taken at the Tour in July.
"I know Alberto, I've worked with him for three years. I personally cannot believe he is guilty," Bruyneel, who managed Contador at the Discovery Channel and Astana teams, told the Associated Press.
— Diane Pucin
Kings' season-opening lineup finalized
Kings Coach Terry Murray erased the final mystery regarding his lineup, saying he will open the season Saturday at Vancouver with a fourth line of 19-year-old forwards Kyle Clifford and Brayden Schenn alongside Kevin Westgarth, and with rookie Jake Muzzin paired on defense with Davis Drewiske.
Two other rookies, Andrei Loktionov and Trevor Lewis, would be the extra forwards. Peter Harrold would be the spare defenseman. A sixth rookie, goaltender Jonathan Bernier, will back up Jonathan Quick in the newly renamed Rogers Arena.
— Helene Elliott
The Calgary Flames put forward Ales Kotalik on the long term injured reserve list Thursday with a knee injury.
L.A. gymnast Mattie Larson named to world championships team
Gymnast Mattie Larson, who trains Los Angeles, was named to her first senior U.S. world championships team. The world championships will be in Rotterdam, Netherlands, Oct. 17-24.
Headlining the team will be a pair of 2008 U.S. Olympians: Bridget Sloan and seven-time world medalist Alicia Sacramone. Also on the team is 2010 U.S. all-around champion Rebecca Bross, Mackenzie Caquatto, Chelsea Davis (coached by former world champion Kim Zmeskal) and Sacramone's training partner Alexandra Raisman.
Sacramone, who retired after the 2008 Olympics in Beijing where the U.S. won a team silver medal, is making a comeback with the goal of competing in London in 2012. Larson recently won the floor exercise competition at the U.S. national championships.
— Diane Pucin
Hollywood Park adds day of racing
Hollywood Park and Oak Tree will add a day of racing Oct. 27 to make up for the racing card that was canceled Wednesday because of excess water on the track. The California Horse Racing Board granted the Oak Tree Racing Assn.'s petition for the program.
The Oct. 27 card will begin at 1 p.m. It will start the final five-day stretch of racing in the Oak Tree meet at Hollywood Park, which ends Oct. 31.
NBC to air Kentucky Derby through 2015
Churchill Downs and NBC Sports have reached an agreement to keep the broadcast of the Kentucky Derby on the network through 2015. Financial details of the agreement were not released.
Caroline Wozniacki is new No. 1 in tennis
Caroline Wozniacki will replace American star Serena Williams as No. 1 in the world when the new rankings are released Monday.
The 20-year-old will become the first player from Denmark, male or female, to hold the top ranking after a 6-3, 6-2 win over Petra Kvitova at the China Open in Beijing on Thursday.
Williams will return to the WTA circuit at next week's event in Linz, Austria, after being sidelined by a cut on her foot since July.
Tom Kite leads Senior Players Championship