The three cyclists favored to win the 2009 Tour of California are Kim Kirchen (Team Columbia, Luxembourg), Levi Leipheimer (Team Astana, USA), and Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Chipotle, USA).
Last year, Christian Vande Velde won the Tour of Missouri after placing fifth in the Tour de France and 3rd place in the 2008 Tour of California.
Levi Leipheimer is the hero in his hometown of Santa Rosa. He placed 6th in the 2006 Tour of California and took the yellow jersey in the 2007 and 2008 editions of the Tour of California.
Kim Kirchen is the national time trial champion in Luxembourg. He's considered a strong up and coming rider and expectations are high for him to ride strong with his Team Columbia team mates.
Lance Armstrong is doing wonders for media attention on the Tour of California and I expect gigantic crowds along the race route all throughout California because of the Armstrong effect. Armstrong is a strong rider, but will his training and strength be enough to get him on the podium this year?
What do you think? Who will you watch this year in California? Who will take the California golden jersey in Escondido on February 22?
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Probably Levi, but I'll be pulling for the Argyle boys. I'd love to see CVV win it, but I suspect he's got his sights set later in the summer. BTW, technically CVV was 4th in last year's le Tour because Kohl turned out to be a cheat.