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Leipheimer: First two ATOC stages for the sprinters

Defending Amgen Tour of California champion Levi Leipheimer said the first two stages of this year’s race offer “opportunities for the sprinters,” although the second stage might just shed a few of the peloton’s non-climbers.

Leipheimer on his way to winning the 2009 ATOC.

Race organizers released details of the first two stages Tuesday, and will roll out details of the remaining stages throughout this week. Leipheimer will share his reactions with VeloNews.com readers as those stage details are released.

The first stage starts in the old mining town of Nevada City, in recognition of the 50th anniversary of the Nevada City Classic criterium, one of the oldest races in the U.S. Leipheimer won the race in 1998, and last year he helped Lance Armstrong win it.
“That a nice tribute to (the race),” said Leipheimer.

The course will loop around the hilly crit’ course as part of the neutral start.

After rolling out of town, the 104-mile route goes over a few hills, but the route features nothing big enough to split up the field, Leipheimer said.

“This will be an opportunity for the sprinters, and they won’t want to pass it up because whoever wins gets the leader’s jersey,” Leipheimer said.

Stage 2 “is not going to be a decider, although it could certainly get rid of a few people,” Leipheimer said.

The 110-mile stage travels from Davis to Leipheimer’s home town of Santa Rosa. Its toughest ascent is probably Howell Mountain Road, Leipheimer said, although the two climbs near the end, Oakville Grade and Trinity Grade, have a bit more potential as launching pads. Still, they are a bit too easy for Leipheimer’s taste.

“It’s kind of a two-part climb, up Oakville and then the backside of Trinity. It would be nice if it was all together as one climb, or if it was closer to the finish. Then it would be more decisive,” he said.

The finish city was a good choice, he said.

“Santa Rosa has shown the most support of all the cities, I’m kind of proud of that,” Leipheimer said. “Santa Rosa has a long cycling history and a very enthusiastic cycling community. I think Santa Rosa has been an example for all the other host cities.”

Check back to VeloNews.com this week as further stage details are released.

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