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The four top cyclists in America on Thursday committed to riding in the the Amgen Tour of California, which will end a stage in Santa Rosa for the fifth time in the premiere race's five-year history.

"They are not only the greatest American riders, they are among the greatest riders racing," said Michael Roth, vice president of AEG Sports, the tour organizer.

The four who announced their intentions on Twitter are seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, three-time Tour of California champion Levi Leipheimer, George Hincapie and Dave Zabriskie.

"I've decided to ride the Amgen Tour of California in 2010. Can't wait," Armstrong wrote on Twitter.

"2010 Amgen Tour of California — I will be there as national time trial champ," Zabriskie wrote.

Organizers also said Santa Rosa has shown it deserved to be part of the race again.

"Its beautiful, the roads are good, there is great riding, there a lot of people who ride, people appreciate riding, it is everything you would like," Andrew Messick, president of AEG Sports, said Thursday. "You will find that Santa Rosa is a pretty special place."

Details were released Thursday morning of the race, which will be held in May instead of February to take advantage of better weather. The race also has been shortened from nine days to eight, though the mileage will be greater.

It includes the first mountain stage in the race's history, a demanding climb in the southern Sierra that is followed by a day of time trials.

The intent, Messick said, is to make the race more difficult and a way for the cyclists to measure their preparation for the Tour de France about five weeks later.

"We want to be an important race in the lead-up to the tour," Messick said. "We've made the race a little bit longer, a little bit harder, we want it to be a strong and solid training base."

The first stage starts in Nevada City, recognizing that Sierra foothills town's 50th year of hosting the Nevada City Classic, and ends in Sacramento.

The second day's stage is from Davis to Santa Rosa, a route that may take riders over Trinity Road, "a nifty climb," Messick said, but it hasn't been decided yet whether there will be circuits run around the downtown.

Messick also noted the support for cycling shown in Sonoma County for the GranFondo, led by Leipheimer, which drew 3,500 riders.

"For us to see the organization, the support for that event, it was a tremendous celebration of our sport .<TH>.<TH>. it made us believe the commitment that we have had in Santa Rosa was exactly right and they are great partners to us," Messick said.

Carlos Perez, an organizer of the GranFondo, said it helps that three-time Tour of California champion Leipheimer lives in Santa Rosa.

"Their long-standing champion lives here and he says he wants it back and that has a lot of weight," Perez said. "He is their single biggest spokesman and they want to leverage that as much as possible."

The ensuing stages are from San Francisco to Santa Cruz, San Jose to Modesto, Visalia to Bakersfield, and Pasadena to Big Bear, a time trial in Los Angeles and a circuit race in Thousand Oaks, according to organizers.

The Pasadena to Big Bear stage is expected to be particularly grueling, with climbs of 6,000 feet and 5,000 feet, Messick said.

Organizers acknowledge that they may be taking a risk by moving the race from February, which Messick said felt like preseason, to May, which is in the heart of the racing season and opposite the Tour of Italy in Italy.

Despite the support of the American riders, a key question is whether the race will again attract the European stars.

"We of course had concerns, as great a race we believe we are and other riders tell us we are," Roth said. "Making this move was a major decision and a major step forward. The riders will be in better shape, it is closer to the Tour of France, it means more for their training and more for their stature. And we were convinced we would attract the caliber of people we have."

The Tour of California is one of cycling's major events in the United States, drawing 10,000 spectators to downtown Santa Rosa.

Next year, the race will be held from May 16 to 23 to avoid the inclement weather that plagued this year's event, which was run in February in rain and wind that chilled both riders and spectators.

The May dates also allow the tour to have stages in the Sierra, which is usually snowbound in February.

The Giro d'Italia is one of Europe's three "grand tours" — three week races run in Italy in May, France in July and Spain in September. It is scheduled for May 8 to 30.