May 11, 2011 - Three-time champion Levi Leipheimer of the United States will lead a field of more than 140 riders from 18 teams in the sixth Tour of California cycling stage race that begins Sunday.
Leipheimer won the eight-day trek over nearly 1300km from 2007 through 2009 before surrendering the crown last year to Australian Michael Rogers, who will not defend his title because of a virus that reduced his training time.
The preliminary competitors list released Wednesday by organizer AEG Sports features top riders Norway's Thor Hushovd of Garmin-Cervelo, Australian Michael Matthews, Spaniard Oscar Freire and Dutchman Lars Boom of Rabobank and Aussie Matthew Goss of HTC-Highroad.
Leipheimer will ride for Team RadioShack while fellow US stars David Zabriskie and Christian Vandevelde compete for Garmin-Cervelo and Americans George Hinicapie and 20-year-old Taylor Phinney race for BMC Racing.
Luxumbourg's Andy Schleck, the 2009 Tour de France runner-up, will lead Leopard Trek. Other teams in the field include HTC-Highroad and Saxo Bank Sungard.
"The caliber of riders participating this year will create a challenging race and a fierce competition starting on Sunday," AEG Sports president Andrew Messick said.