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Amgen Tour boss sees growth in U.S. cycling, feels no effect from sponsor’s legal woes

BOULDER, Colorado (VN) — The 2013 Amgen Tour of California will work its way from south to north for the first time in the race’s history, skip Mount Baldy in favor of Mount Diablo and finish in three-time champ Levi Leipheimer’s hometown of Santa Rosa.

Things are a bit different for the race now. It’s still a top-level stage race in the States (though Colorado’s USA Pro Challenge has proven to be every bit as popular) and has re-tooled itself in its eighth year. Kristin Bachochin, executive director of the Amgen Tour of California and senior vice president of promoter AEG Sports, said it’s her hope to keep the route as fresh as possible every year. “It’s something that we’ve been talking about for years now,” she said of the decision to move from south (the race starts in Escondido) to the north (it finishes in Santa Rosa).

“One of our main goals every year is to continue to change out the route every year … and at the same time, make sure that we continue to highlight all the beautiful parts the state of California has to offer,” she said.

By all accounts, this should be a good one. From the stages along the coast in Santa Barbara to the hot road to Palm Springs and up the steeps of Diablo, it’s likely the Amgen Tour will be as contested as it is scenic.

Bachochin said the success of the USA Pro Challenge isn’t competition to the California race, but rather another reason for top pros to race stateside.

“For there to be more races in the U.S., that’s great for everybody,” she said. “You have Colorado, you have Utah, which is a fantastic race.”

Also, Amgen is back as the title sponsor, which could seem a surprise, given the fact that the drug giant finds itself mired in legal problems over pushing its pharmaceuticals on doctors and their patients (but not cyclists looking for performance enhancing drugs). On that topic, Bachochin said it’s had “no impact” on the race itself. Amgen set aside $780 million in 2011 to resolve those kickback allegations.

Bachochin said the race would announce more route details and the teams invited to compete early in 2013.

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