2010 Amgen Tour of California teams announced

IN: Jelly Belly, Kelly Benefit Strategies, Sky. OUT: Jamis, Bahati

Led by RadioShack, Saxo Bank, Garmin-Transitions and HTC-Columbia, a total of 16 teams make up this year’s California peloton

The list of 16 teams attending the Amgen Tour of California is now final.

In all seven ProTour teams, two Pro Continental teams and seven Continental teams make up this year’s California peloton. Nine of the teams are registered in the U.S, while seven are foreign. This year’s race begins in Nevada City on Sunday, May 16, and ends just north of Los Angeles on Sunday, May 23.

As expected, three-time champion and Santa Rosa, California, resident Levi Leipheimer will look to defend the Golden State title that has come to help define his career. Leipheimer will enjoy the support of RadioShack teammates Lance Armstrong and Chris Horner, all racing on American soil for the first time in the colors of their new-for-2010 American sponsor. Armstrong finished the race seventh overall last year in his first road race in North America since announcing his retirement at the 2005 Tour de Georgia.

RadioShack will likely face its stiffest competition for the overall title from ProTour teams Saxo Bank, Garmin-Transitions and HTC-Columbia.

Saxo Bank brings reigning Olympic and world time-trial champion Fabian Cancellara to California, as well as 2009 Tour de France runner-up Andy Schleck and veteran Jens Voigt, who finished second at the 2007 California race.

Five-time national time-trial champion Dave Zabriskie, winner of the 2009 Tour of Missouri, will lead the Garmin-Transitions squad. Zabriskie, who now makes his home in Los Angeles, has twice finished second overall in California, in 2006 and 2009. Top American Garmin riders Christian Vande Velde and Tyler Farrar are not expected; Vande Velde will race the overlapping Giro d’Italia, while Farrar will be recovering from a spring classics campaign and preparing for the Tour de France.

HTC-Columbia, owned by San Luis Obispo-based Bob Stapleton, brings top sprinter Mark Cavendish, winner of two stages in California last year, as well as blossoming German TT specialist Tony Martin and three-time world time-trial champion Michael Rogers, who finished seventh overall in 2007 and third overall in 2009.

Another rider contending for the overall is Liquigas rider Vincenzo Nibali, however the strength of his team support will be in question as his Italian squad focuses on rallying behind Ivan Basso at the Giro d’Italia. (more below)

The 2009 ATOC peloton

Three-time U.S. national road champion George Hincapie, also a three-time stage winner in California, will lead the American-registered BMC Racing team. The team’s other marquee riders, world champion Cadel Evans and 2008 world champion Alessandro Ballan, will race in Italy.

Top sprinters from the European peloton include Quick Step’s Tom Boonen and Cervelo’s Thor Hushovd and Heinrich Haussler. Hushovd won the first field sprint of last year’s edition; Boonen won a field sprint in California in 2008 and finished second to Cavendish twice last year.

Rabobank will bring recent Paris-Nice prologue winner Lars Boom as well as Juan Manuel Garate, winner of the Mont Ventoux stage of last year’s Tour de France. Three-time California best young rider Robert Gesink will not return in 2010, opting instead to prepare for the Tour de France at a training camp with 2009 Giro champ Denis Menchov. Rabobank’s three-time world champion and recent Milan-San Remo winner Oscar Freire is also not expected to return to California; the Spaniard raced in California in 2009 but was abandoned after a crash on stage 4 from Merced to Clovis.

A pair of UnitedHealthcare-Maxxis riders that once rode for Rabobank’s Pro Continental team, Rory Sutherland and Marc de Maar, may represent the best chance for a domestic Continental team to bring home a stage win. Sutherland has been close in California in the past, finishing second on stage 7 in 2008 and fourth on stage 8 last year; de Maar has not yet raced at the California tour.

Other U.S.-based domestic teams attending the race include Kelly Benefit Strategies, Team Type 1, Bissell and Jelly Belly-Kenda.

International teams that spend the bulk of their season racing in the U.S. that hope to make a mark on the race include the Australian team Fly V Australia, led by sprinters Jonathan Cantwell and Bernie Sulzberger, and the Canadian team SpiderTech-Planet Energy, led by sprinters Martin Gilbert and Ryan Roth.

Notable domestic teams that did not receive invitations include Jamis-Sutter Home, the top team on USA Cycling’s 2009 National Calendar Rankings, and Bahati Foundation, home to 2006 California winner Floyd Landis as well as Nathan O’Neill, who finished fifth overall that year.

Team UCI Designation Country Keynote Riders
Saxo Bank ProTour Denmark Andy Schleck, Fabian Cancellara, Jens Voigt
Rabobank ProTour Netherlands Lars Boom, Juan Manuel Garate
HTC-Columbia ProTour USA Mark Cavendish, Michael Rogers, Tony Martin
Garmin-Transitions ProTour USA David Zabriskie
RadioShack ProTour USA Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer, Chris Horner
Quick Step ProTour Belgium Tom Boonen
Liquigas-Doimo ProTour Italy Vincenzo Nibali
BMC Racing Pro Continental USA George Hincapie
Cervelo TestTeam Pro Continental Switzerland Thor Hushovd, Heinrich Haussler
UnitedHealthcare-Maxxis Continental USA Rory Sutherland, Marc de Maar
SpiderTech-Planet Energy Continental Canada Martin Gilbert, Ryan Roth
Fly V Australia Continental Australia Jonathan Cantwell, Bernie Sulzberger
Jelly Belly-Kenda Continental USA Brad Huff, Mike Friedman
Bissell Continental USA Ben Jacques-Maynes, Jeremy Vennell
Team Type 1 Continental USA Javier Megias, Thomas Rabou, Aldo Ino Ilesic
Kelly Benefit Strategies Continental USA Scott Zwizanksi, Andy Bajadali, Zach Bell