Goal: Stay clean

The route is set, the top cycling teams are being courted and the final on-course details are being attended to.

Now, organizers of the Amgen Tour of California are focused on taking the necessary steps to make sure the eight-day, 650-mile event is a clean one. The race is scheduled to start Feb. 17 with the prologue in Palo Alto, and Medalist Sports race director Jim Birrell said organizers will continue to work closely with the Word Anti-Doping Agency and the United States Anti-Doping Agency in the months leading up to the event to guarantee racers are not using performance-enhancing drugs.

“We’ll certainly abide by all the rules that the governing body of the sport has set up,” Birrell said. “And we’re also taking steps and exploring the technology to go above and beyond those steps to ensure we have a clean race.”

There have been no revelations of riders testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs in the two-year history of the Tour of California. But premier cyclists including Floyd Landis (the race’s inaugural champion) and Michael Rasmussen have participated in the event and later faced positive doping tests while they were competing in the Tour de France.

Now, it’s up to the riders to report to races clean in order to restore credibility to the sport, according to last year’s Tour of California champion, Levi Leipheimer.

“The teams are starting to impose internal doping regulations that are even stricter [than those set by WADA and USADA],” said Leipheimer, a Santa Rosa resident who finished third in the Tour de France. “And that’s what we need to do to show everyone we’re serious about cleaning up the sport.”

Leipheimer appeared at a media event Tuesday to discuss some specifics about the 2008 race and later rode the Stage 1 route from Sausalito to Santa Rosa with some local cyclists.

The 2007 race drew more than 1.6 million spectators, organizers said, and the course has undergone a few tweaks in preparation for February’s competition. Modesto and Pasadena are new host cities, while Palo Alto will replace San Francisco as the site of the prologue.

melliser@examiner.com

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