2012 Tour to take cyclists from Santa Rosa to LA

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Chris Horner is expected to defend his Amgen Tour of California title during the seventh edition of the race, which begins in Santa Rosa on May 13.

The eight-stage event, which is expected to include about 140 of cycling's top professional riders, including Horner and three-time winner Levi Leipheimer of Santa Rosa, will visit 13 host cities, including first-time venues Sonora and Ontario. The roughly 750-mile race will conclude May 20 in Los Angeles.

''This race is special because it takes place in one of the most beautiful places in the world, California,'' said Horner. ''The host cities are always so welcoming and the crowds are always great, not to mention, they provide some of the toughest racing terrain around. I'm looking forward to racing in California again and defending my title in 2012.''

All participating teams and individual riders will be announced in the weeks just before the race.

Stage 2 will take the field from San Francisco to Santa Cruz County, followed by Stage 3 from San Jose to Livermore. San Jose is the only city involved as a stage host every year.

Sonora will host the start of Stage 4. Bakersfield will replace Solvang as the location of the event's only individual time trial in Stage 5.

Stage 6 will start in Palmdale and head to Big Bear Lake. Ontario will host the start of Stage 7, which will conclude at Mount Baldy.

''Our goal for the Amgen Tour of California has always been to create a route that not only provides a challenging race for the world's top cyclists, but one that highlights the beauty and diverse terrain that make up the great state of California as well,'' Kristin Bachochin, the race's first-year executive director, said in a statement.

This year, the race was scheduled to start at South Lake Tahoe with a route around Lake Tahoe. Snow forced organizers to cancel the stage at the last minute.

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