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Tour of California, Stage 1 Preview 2012: Race Opens In Santa Rosa

Stage one of the 2012 Tour of California begins on Sunday, a 119.6-mile trek that starts and finishes in Santa Rosa, California. Home to three-time champ Levi Leipheimer, Santa Rosa has become sort of an unofficial home to American cyclists over the years as it helped grow the Tour of California event into what it is today.

In the first 30 minutes racers will advance through the Town of Windsor and then pass by many famous vineyards in neighboring Sonoma County. After many vital Sprints, racers will head back to Santa Rosa on a direct line to Occidental, and then eventually the popular Bohemian Highway.

Representing the state of Minnesota will be Optum Pro Cycling, a Continental Level team that was founded in 2007. Unfortunately however, key racer Jesse Anthony will not be partaking in the event after becoming seriously ill recently at a race in Korea. Teammate Ken Hanson and the rest of Optum Pro Cycling will hope to improve upon their best finish, fifth, when things finally wrap up.

Five of the six winners in the race's history have been American-born cyclists. Leipheimer, a heavy favorite once again, will be aiming for his fourth race victory in six years. The event will conclude on Monday, May 20, with a must-see trek from Los Angeles to Beverly Hills. To watch

For more on the Tour of California, check out this SB Nation Minnesota story stream.

Photographs by Micah Taylor, clairity, and Fibonacci Blue used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.