Leipheimer To Race In Tour of California

LOS ANGELES, March 13, 2012 (AFP) – Three-time Tour of California winner
Levi Leipheimer of the United States plans to start this year’s edition of the
top US stage race Sunday despite breaking a leg last month.

“I’m very relieved and I’m very happy to say that I will start the race,”
Leipheimer said Friday. “It has all been with this in mind, to be part of this
huge event on Sunday.”

Leipheimer suffered a broken left leg last month after being struck by a
car while preparing for a training ride. He posted an X-ray of his broken left
leg on microblogging service Twitter.

“Some days are better than others,” Leipheimer said. “There’s obviously
some pain there. The recovery is not as fast as you would hope.

“In the end, there’s not a whole lot you can do. It heals as fast as it
wants,” he added.

“It has been a trying 5 1/2 weeks. I go between a little bit of frustration
and suffering and hurting and feeling sorry for myself to saying at least I’m
here, able to ride my bike and enjoy being here and enjoy my life.”

A total of 128 riders on 16 teams will compete in the seventh edition of
the top annual US stage race, which opens in Leipheimer’s hometown of Santa
Rosa and concludes on May 20 in downtown Los Angeles after covering more than
750 miles (1,207 kilometers).

Having the grand departure in his hometown made Leipheimer work extra hard
to be ready for the event and not a liability for his Omega Pharma-QuickStep
team.

“Our community has worked very hard to make this moment possible,” said
Leipheimer. “The thought of not starting in Santa Rosa, it just kills me.

“So it was important when the team got here I was able to show them that I
wouldn’t be a burden, be a weak link, just roll out and do 50km or the first
stage and quit. That’s not fair to the team.”

While admitting he will not be at full strength, Leipheimer said his issues
are more about performance than coping with pain.

“When you have an injury like this, it shuts the whole leg and the whole
side of the body off,” Leipheimer said. “I’m not at 100 percent that’s for
sure.”

Defending champion Chris Horner hopes to become a repeat winner for
RadioShack.

“It was a great win. It’s amazing what it has done for my career,” Horner
said. “The team came here with the goal of winning again. This is the hardest
I’ve seen the course.”

Tour of Flanders winner Tom Boonen of Belgium, another Omega Pharma rider
who tops the cyclist rankings, expressed excitement at ending a rest break and
beginning his push to the Tour de France on the American West coast.

“It’s the perfect race to get started again,” Boonen said. “We have three
or four stages that suit me. I’m looking forward to a big result.”

Vincenzo Nibali skipped the Giro d’Italia to race in California and improve
upon a sixth-place showing in the 2009 US race.

“It’s difficult for an Italian not to do the Tour of Italy but I’m going to
give my best and hope I have a great result,” he said. “It may not be easy but
I hope to improve on that result.”

American Tom Danielson of Team Garmin, third in California last year, is
ready to make a jump up the podium.

“Last year, I was able to be on the podium and compete with some of my
idols in the sport,” he said. “From that point, I looked at myself so much
differently.”

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