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Cycling | International Cycling

Levi Leipheimer © Gallo Images

Leipheimer to ride in Tour of California



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 on 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 on 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 five and a half 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 1 207 kilometres.

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 per cent 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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