Levi Leipheimer has been the mainstay in the Amgen Tour of California in its six years of existence and looks to reclaim the top spot in the fast-growing race in 2011.
Leipheimer lost his bid at a fourth straight Tour of California by 25 seconds last year, finishing third.
A couple months later, he finished eighth in the Tour de France.
Michael Rogers, the 2010 winner, and Dave Zabriskie were able to outlast Leipheimer, pulling away in the 84-mile stage through the mountainous terrain of Thousand Oaks and Agoura Hills.
Leipheimer, who resides in Santa Rosa, has been training in Utah in preparation for the beginning of the racing season. But the 37-year-old’s quest for a fourth Tour of California championship will not be an easy one.
An injury will prevent Rogers from defending his title despite very strong 2010. The Australian pre-empted his win at the Tour of California with a win at the Vuelta a Andalucia.
Twenty-five-year-old Andy Schleck is quickly rising after finishing second in the Tour de France last year and winning a time-trial championship.
Earning points and youth classification in the 2010 Tour of California has placed 21-year-old Peter Sagan in the conversation of contenders for the 2011 title.
Other racers are not the only obstacle facing the 14-year veteran Leipheimer.
He has not won a major race since breaking his wrist in the 2009 Tour de France.
He was in fourth place when he had to withdraw at the end of Stage 12.
Team RadioShack will be sending eight riders, including Leipheimer, to push for its first Tour of California team title.
Leipheimer enters the race at 62nd in the UCI World Tour rankings.
Ready to ride
A glance at the 18 teams competing in the Amgen Tour of California. Due to operational issues, the previously announced Columbian-based Movistar Team will not be participating in the race:
Top rider: Peter Sagan
Rabobank Cycling Team
Top rider: Oscar Freire
Top rider: Tejay Van Garderen
Top rider: Levi Leipheimer
Saxo Bank SunGard
Top rider: Juan Jose Haedo
BMC Racing Team
Top rider: George Hincapie
Top rider: Thor Hushovd
Bissell Pro Cycling
Top rider: Chris Baldwin
Jelly Belly Presented by Kenda
Top rider: Ken Hanson
Kelly Benefit Strategies
Top rider: Andrew Bajadali
SpiderTech Powered By C10
Top rider: Svein Tuft
Team Type 1 — sanofi-aventis
Top rider: Rubens Bertogliati
Top rider: Rory Sutherland
Country: Great Britain
Top rider: Kurt-Asle Arvesen
Top rider: Jesus Del Nero Montes
Top rider: Andy Schleck
Kenda/5-Hour Energy Pro Cycling
Top riders: Benjamin Day, Luca Damiani
Top riders: Luis Romero Amara, Tyler Wren