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Paul Wellman

Recapping Past Amgen Tours of California


2006: A year after Lance Armstrong’s seventh and final victory at the Tour de France, the first ATOC in February 2006 featured several of his former teammates. Stage 5, a 105-mile trek from San Luis Obispo to Santa Barbara, was won by George Hincapie. He outsprinted a field that surged down Shoreline Drive to Cabrillo Boulevard at 45 mph. Floyd Landis had earlier taken the overall leader’s yellow jersey, and he retained his position in the final two stages ​— ​Santa Barbara to Thousand Oaks and a circuit course in Redondo Beach ​— ​to become the first Tour of California champion. Levi Leipheimer, who led the peloton over San Marcos Pass, was deemed King of the Mountain. Landis rode phenomenally throughout the year, but his apparent victory at the Tour de France was overturned by a positive drug test that he vehemently disputed.

2007: The 5‘6”, 136-pound Leipheimer asserted himself in the individual time trial, beating runner-up Jens Voigt by 18 seconds on the 15-mile course through the streets of Solvang and Los Olivos at an average speed of 30 mph. The next day’s stage started in Santa Barbara, and it ended with Juan José “J.J.” Haedo winning a sprint finish in Santa Clarita. Leipheimer stayed close behind, and he secured the overall victory in the final stage in Long Beach.

2008: The Solvang time trial again boosted Leipheimer to a substantial lead that he never gave up. The tour paid a price for its February dates when torrential rains battered the cyclists on Highway 1 between Seaside and San Luis Obispo. Sprint star Mark Cavendish was first to finish the Santa Barbara-Santa Clarita stage, but he was penalized 20 seconds for grabbing onto his team car, and the stage went to Luciano Pagliarini.

2009: Leipheimer again took control in Solvang. With his Astana teammate Lance Armstrong ​— ​preparing to return to the Tour de France ​— ​serving as his domestique (a French term for “servant”), Leipheimer claimed his third consecutive triumph in his native state. The race was held in February for the last time.

2010: The May dates suited Michael Rogers of Australia, who won over Dave Zabriskie and Leipheimer. Almost the entire route was inland. Los Angeles replaced Solvang for the time trial. There was big news off the course when Landis confessed that he was guilty of doping in 2006, and he also accused Armstrong of using EPO and blood transfusions when they were teammates in 2002 and 2003. Informed of the allegations in Visalia, Armstrong said, “It’s our word against his word. I like our word. We like our credibility.”

2011: Solvang hosted the time trial for the fourth time, with a different result. Zabriskie negotiated the course 14 seconds faster than Leipheimer. The overall winner was 39-year-old Chris Horner, who finished 38 seconds ahead of Leipheimer.

2012: Dutch cyclist Robert Gesink of the Rabobank Cycling Team left his rivals behind on Mount Baldy and rode to the overall victory over American riders Zabriskie and Tom Danielson. Peter Sagan of Liquigas-Cannondale dominated the sprint finishes, taking five stage wins and the sprinter jersey. Organizers estimated more than two million spectators along the eight stages from Santa Rosa, through Bakersfield, and to Los Angeles. The race will go south to north for the first time in 2013.

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