Most kids learn how to ride a bike before they throw a baseball, shoot a hoop or kick a soccer ball. In fact, most children learn to balance on a two-wheels between the ages of four and eight.
Now that you have the keys to the car, are you one of the more than 57 million people in the United State who are still riding a bike today?
Aside from the millions who enjoy cycling for health, fitness, transportation and recreation, part of the cycling revolution in America has resulted in a marked growth in the number of Americans who spend their weekends competing in USA Cycling sanctioned bicycle races. Today, more than 54,000 people are registered as licensed competitors through USA Cycling, the governing body for the sport in the U.S. Bike racing has become so popular that the organization’s membership has doubled since 2002. Currently, it constitutes the largest membership in the world. With so many Americans taking up cycling, there’s no doubt that the country is bound to add to the ten Tour de France titles that it has already won – three by Greg Lemond and seven consecutive Lance Armstrong victories. With Armstrong retired from competition, there are several American riders who are among the best in the world. These athletes are aiming for Lance’s spot on the podium. This year, the road to France begins in California.
With the Amgen Tour of California opening the international road cycling season for many riders, California will be the stage as the world’s best cyclists vie for their first major international victory of the year. Let’s take a closer look some of the elite Americans who are expected to be a factor in the tour.
Levi Leipheimer – Gerolsteiner
This Santa Rosa resident has had remarkable success on an international stage, finishing sixth overall in last year’s Tour de France. Levi also finished 3rd in the 2001 Tour of Spain, the highest finish ever by an American rider in the Spanish grand tour.
Floyd Landis – Phonak Hearing Systems
A former teammate of Armstrong, Floyd now leads the Phonak. Floyd lives and trains in Temecula, CA. He finished ninth overall in last year’s Tour de France. Floyd brings a lot of personality to the sport and is known to ride wheelies on his road bike down the Champs-Elysees after the final stage of the race.
Bobby Julich – Team CSC
The altitude in Reno, Nevada agreesl with Julich, who won the bronze medal in the Olympic Time Trial in Athens and was third overall in the Tour de France in 1998. In 2005, Bobby was the first American to win the famed Paris-Nice stage race.
Dave Zabriskie – Team CSC
Utah native Zabriskie won the opening time trial in last year’s Tour de France and wore the first yellow leaders jersey. Zabriski is only the third American ever to don the famed Yellow Jersey. With the other two being Armstrong and Lemond., this 25 year-old is one of America’s top young prospects.
Fred Rodriguez – Davitamon-Lotto
Rodriguez lives in Emeryville, California and is a three-time winner of the U.S. National Championship road race. Known for his speed, Rodriguez has won a stage of the Tour of Spain and the Tour of Italy. He is also well-known for his own coffee brand, “Fast Freddie.”
Chris Horner – Davitamon-Lotto
The dominant racer on the U.S. domestic circuit for most of the early 2000s, Horner went back to Europe in 2005 after a stellar performance at the 2004 World Championships. Riding for Prodir – Saunier Duval last year, Horner won a stage of the Tour of Switzerland and came within yards of a remarkable win in Stage 13 of last year’s Tour de France. Horner is also a former winner of the San Francisco Grand Prix bike race.
George Hincapie – Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team
Hincapie is a former lieutenant for Lance Armstrong at USPS and Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team. He is the only rider to ride with Lance through all seven Tour de France wins. Last year, Hincapie won the premier mountain stage during the Tour (Stage 10) and finished second at one of cycling’s monuments, the Paris-Roubaix spring classic.
Tom Danielson – Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team
Along with Hincapie, Danielson leads the Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team. Danielson won the Tour de Georgia in 2004. A precocious climbing talent, many look to this Durango, CO to develop into one of the world’s finest cyclists.
Scott Moninger – Health Net Presented by Maxxis
Moninger is the winningest active American racer, with more than 240 victories to his credit. He was also a member of the U.S. World Championship Road Team in 1999 in Verona, Italy. Moninger is a savvy, tactically astute rider with a gift for going uphill.
Danny Pate – Team TIAA-CREF
In 2001, Pate was the World U-23 Time Trial Champion and he is only one of three Americans to ever win a World Championship on the road. Danny was second in the 2005 USPRO National Championships in Philadelphia. This noted climber and time-trialist will lead TIAA-CREF at the Amgen Tour of California.
Chris Wherry – United Pro Cycling Team
A veteran of the U.S. circuit, Wherry had a phenomenal 2005 season, winning the USPRO National Championships in Philadelphia and the UCI 2.2. Redlands Classic Stage Race in Redlands, CA. Wherry will wear the stars-and-stripes of the U.S. National Champion in the inaugural Amgen Tour of California.