Santa Rosa's international racing star Levi Leipheimer was back on the roads of the west county on Wednesday, riding with members of his bicyle team less than five weeks after breaking his leg in Spain.
His Omega Pharma-Quick-Step team, easily identifiable by its turquoise-blue and black colors and trailed by team cars, was on a training ride along with other teams scouting the course for the Amgen Tour of California that begins Sunday.
The big question for fans and competitors was whether Leipheimer, who has won the Tour of California three times, actually would compete in the eight-day race.
He was listed on the roster of competitors, but race experts said his participation is uncertain. Leipheimer is recovering from a broken fibula in his lower left leg suffered when he was hit from behind by an 82-year-old driver while preparing for a training ride.
"He is going to utilize every last minute he has to evaluate his injury," said Greg Fisher, a close friend who works with the cyclist on his annual GranFondo ride in Sonoma County. "Obviously, there are organizational considerations. He can't just show up and ride. I would expect word from Levi later in the week — and we're running out of week."
Fisher confirmed what others have suggested: That Friday is a likely target day for Leipheimer's decision.
Leipheimer could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
In its seventh year, the tour has grown to be the major race in the United States, drawing 16 teams and 128 riders.
Also on Wednesday, some of the Santa Rosa-based BMC team's riders from Europe were shaking off the effects of a nine-hour flight and getting on their bikes, said Gavin Chilcott, BMC Racing co-owner and chief operating officer.
A few riders for the Bissell Team, also based in Santa Rosa, have been out on training rides, said Glen Mitchell, team manager.
With the season already under way, Mitchell said the riders are coming to the Amgen tour in racing shape.
"They are all doing more light training, nothing intense this week," Mitchell said. "This week is about loosening up and getting ready. They have done the hard racing, now it is staying healthy."
The tour route includes two laps in downtown Santa Rosa, a loop from Santa Rosa to downtown Windsor and back and then a ride through Occidental and Cazadero to the coast and back to a Santa Rosa finish.
Being in Santa Rosa early gives teams the luxury of scouting the route beforehand, which they cannot do for the other seven stages through California.
Chilcott said the turn from Highway 1 onto Coleman Valley Road will be critical. No one wants to start that steep climb 40 positions back, he said.
"From Highway 1, getting to that climb, positioning will be important," he said.
StaffWriter Phil Barber contributed to this report. You can reach Staff Writer
Bob Norberg at 521-5206 or bob.norberg@