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Tour d' Long Beach

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Last year, when the Amgen Tour of California cycling race finished in Redondo Beach, Floyd Landis was the golden boy in the golden jersey, the winner of the seven-stage race down the California coast.

A couple months later he went on to win the Tour d’ France. Sort of. He crossed the finish line first but may have had a little help from a needle in doing so. Landis says that is not the case and now a bunch of lawyers are getting $600 an hour to argue about it, just the way any great sporting event should end.

But today 120 riders come to Long Beach hoping to follow in Landis’ bike path (without the needle) by winning this year’s Tour of California. Stage seven, the final stage, races along a street course through Long Beach starting at 1 p.m. today.

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Leading the way is America’s own Levi Leipheimer, riding for Team Discovery Channel. Germany’s powerhouse Jens Voight (Team CSC, and winner of stage 13 of last year’s Tour d’ France) is just 21 seconds back.

A number of these riders will take a bike tour of France in a few weeks, from the wine country of Bordeaux to the French Alps. In fact, that’s why the Tour of California has become a huge deal in cycling in just two years -- you can’t really train for the Tour d’ France on a Life Cycle at 24-Hour Fitness, you need to get out and ride. So many top riders see California as the perfect tune-up.

This blogger has a theory about going to sporting (and other) events: There are far too few chances in life to see the best in the world do what they do in person to pass up the opportunity. Especially if it is FREE. And this is -- the course runs from downtown Long Beach east almost all the way to Belmont Shore, all along the ocean with a great view, and you can stand there (or bring a lawn chair) at no cost. Thousands are expected to be there.

Everything starts at 1 p.m and they’ll be doing 10 laps around the course across the city. It’s easy to get there: Just head down to the end of the 710 Freeway or take the Blue Line to the last exit to the south (then walk just a couple blocks).

Or, better yet, ride your bike.

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AP Photo by Michael A. Mariant