Tour of California to breeze through SF 

The Amgen Tour of California, one of the largest cycling events in the country, will stop by San Francisco for the second consecutive year, although The City segment of the race will be shorter than the 2009 version.

The eight-day tour, now in its fifth year, is expected to feature three-time defending champ Levi Leipheimer, seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong and a host of other cyclists from around the globe.

As announced on the race Web site Wednesday, the third leg of the event will kick off May 18 in San Francisco. Cyclists will begin the 113-mile portion of the race on Great Highway, just north of Golden Gate Park. The first 2.2 miles of the San Francisco stretch will be pedaled in neutral mode — a noncompetitive portion that allows fans to witness the race and protects the riders from congestion. The competitors will kick it into gear for the final mile of the San Francisco portion, starting at Sloat Boulevard.

The leg will then wind through the Peninsula towns of Half Moon Bay and Pescadero before wrapping up in Santa Cruz.

In 2006 and 2007, San Francisco played host to lively time-trial segments of the Tour, with 200,000 spectators witnessing the cyclists race from The Embarcadero to Coit Tower, but the 2010 version marks the third straight year that The City has played an ancillary role in the event. In 2008, the event skipped over The City altogether, and last year, cyclists passed over the Golden Gate Bridge and traveled along the outer edges of The City through the Presidio before heading south down Great Highway.

In total, the 2010 event will cover over 800 miles, starting in the Sierra Nevada foothill town of Nevada City on May 16 and finishing in Los Angeles on May 23.

Last year, Leipheimer — a Santa Rosa resident — captured his third straight Tour title, beating out Armstrong, who was competing for the first time in the event. For the second straight year, the two competitors are expected to ride as teammates, although this time it will be under Armstrong’s newly created RadioShack team.

In 2009, the two riders competed for the Luxembourg-based Astana squad, with Leipheimer besting the field in a time of 31 hours, 28 minutes and 21 seconds, and Armstrong finishing seventh, 1:46 behind his teammate. In total, 84 riders competing for 17 different teams finished the race.

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Will Reisman

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