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Tour of California for 2011? ‘Yep,’ AEG president says

The Amgen Tour of California will be back for 2011, Anschutz Entertainment Group president Andrew Messick told VeloNews this week.

When asked whether the race, and presenting sponsor Amgen, will be back for 2011, Messick replied pointedly, “Yep.”

A source who declined to be named confirmed that headline sponsor Amgen, which was founded in Thousand Oaks, California, is signed on for the 2011 edition, the final year of a two-year extension of the company’s original partnership agreement.

Messick confirmed Sunday that his team will begin work on next year’s route in early June and plans to pursue the event’s first true mountaintop finish for 2011.

According to Messick, the 2011 race will again feature eight stages. “I don’t think that for 2011 we’ll look at expanding to nine days, but that is possible,” he said. “I think we want to go back to our core team — Jim (Birrell), Chris (Aronhalt) at Medalist and our guys — to see what we want to do for 2011 and what is required from our perspective to continue to take positive steps toward growing this race and making it increasingly relevant.”

The increasing relevance may come in the form of ProTour status for 2011. Messick has made no bones about his company’s intention to take the race to the top level of the sport and it appears that AEG may pursue that status for the next edition. This move would come with the stipulation that all ProTour teams field a squad for the event. It would also mean that Continental teams like Jelly Belly-Kenda and UnitedHealthcare-Maxxis would be excluded.

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