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Lance and Co. are on the way

Eight teams announced for 2009 AMGEN Tour of California

Posted: December 18, 2008 9:45 p.m.
Updated: December 19, 2008 4:55 a.m.
 
The eight teams participating in the fourth annual 2009 AMGEN Tour of California were announced Thursday, among them were cycling legend Lance Armstrong and Levi Leipheimer's Astana Cycling Team.

Armstrong is new to Astana after announcing he would join the Kazakh-financed team on Sept. 24 amidst much speculation.

He joins former manager, Johan Bruyneel, with whom he won all seven Tour de France titles, and Leipheimer, the two-time defending champion of the AMGEN Tour of California.

The race will take place February 14-22, spanning 750 miles and 16 cities throughout the state.

Divided into eight stages, the seventh will go through Santa Clarita to Pasadena by way of a winding path through Acton.

It will not be an easy trek to the finish line for Astana, which will face two of the U.S.'s top teams - Garmin-Slipstream and Team Columbia.

Team Columbia, formerly known as Team High Road, features George Hincapie and Michael Rogers, a former World Time Trial champion.

Garmin-Slipstream, new to the ProTour circuit, includes Christian Vande Velde, David Millar and David Zabriskie among their ranks.

Zabriskie is a national road champion.

They will face five other internationally-based teams from such countries as France, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark, respectively.

Belgian-based Quick Step comes to the table having won 55 events over the course of the 2008 season. A young team, Quick Step added 12 riders, having lost Paolo Bettini to retirement.

Danish-based, Team Saxo Bank ended last season in the top three in the world rankings and may have one of the strongest teams with the likes of Fabian Cancellara, Jens Voigt, Stuart O'Grady and Gustav Larsson.

Rabobank, Ag2r and Liquigas round out the competition.
From the Netherlands, Rabobank will be led by three-time World Champion, Oscar Freire, Denis Menchov and Lars Boom.

Ag2r also added new members including a former rider for Quick Step, Alexander Efimkin, who will be joining his twin brother Vladimir.

Italian-based Liquigas is the only team that did not record any stage wins at the 2008 Tour de France, a testament to the caliber of competition that will ride through California.

pputignano@the-signal.com


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