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Tour of California Promoters hope event rivals Tour de France
Hoping to someday rival the Tour de France, the people behind the Tour of California professional cycling race laid out their plans Wednesday in San Francisco for next year's inaugural event.

Starting with a short time-trial prologue in San Francisco on Feb. 19, the race will travel 750 miles up, then down the coast over the next week to finish on Feb. 26 in the Los Angeles suburb of Redondo Beach. In between, the 128 cyclists representing 16 teams will begin or end stages in such cities as Sausalito, Santa Rosa, Martinez, San Jose, Monterey, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Thousand Oaks.

"The event will celebrate not only the athleticism and grace of cycling, but also the beauty of ... California," said Tim Leiweke, president and CEO of Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) which is organizing the event. "The Tour of California will soon take its place among the sport's best, most respected races.

"And we're putting up $35 million to do it, to rival the Tour de France."

That's some mighty big talk for a first-year event, but the Tour of California has attracted some big-time interest: Amgen, a Southern California biotechnology company, is the title sponsor; ESPN2 is a broadcast partner and will present an hour-long highlights show each race-day evening; and high-profile European-centric teams such as Discovery Channel, Gerolsteiner, Davitamon-Lotto, Phonak, Saunier Duval Prodir and T-Mobile will be represented in the peloton.

"This is a huge landmark day for U.S. cycling; I felt like we've hit the lottery," said Sean Petty, chief of staff at USA Cycling, the sport's governing body in the United States. "The magnitude of an event like this ... is huge. ... With the quality of the teams coming here, the Tour of California will be a showcase event for the sport of cycling. ... This will provide a platform for this sport like never before."

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