The Tour de France is bicycle racing's most coveted event. It's held in July, mostly in France. It lasts three weeks, covers more than 2,000 miles and negotiates through the peaks Alps and Pyrenees. It's the pinnacle of the sport for many reasons, prized money to media exposure and history to competitive intrigue.

The Tour of Italy and Tour of Spain are the second and third most prestigious cycling events, both also three weeks in length.

With the Tour de France, the trio of comprises the Grand Tours.

There's no consensus of opinion or rules that determine the importance of cycling events. But the annual World Championships and one-day events like Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders also hold high prestige.

18 Men's, Women's Team For 11th Tour of California

The newest of the sport's more popular events is the Amgen Tour of California.

It's an eight-day race held since 2006. The 18 men’s and women’s teams participating in the race's 11th edition were announced on March 1. It’s often considered cycling’s fifth most important race.

This year's event men's race will be held May 15-22, and it will advance from San Diego to Sacramento, only the second time the race has progressed south to north. The women's division, scheduled May 19-22, will advance from South Lake Tahoe to Sacramento.

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Race officials called the field for the pending men’s and women’s races the most competitive in race history. It’s hard to argue.

Peter Sagan of Slovakia, who rides for the Tinkoff team, will return to defend the title he claimed by three seconds last year by earning bonus seconds in a final-day sprint. Sagan is the reigning road world titlist and he’s won a record 13 stages of the Tour of California.

Cycling's Best Sprinters Competing

Mark Cavendish of Great Britain, who competes for the Data Dimension squad, will also return. He’s claimed 26 Tour de France stages and eight Tour of California stages. He won four Tour of California stages last year, but will face a strong field this year that includes Alexander Kristoff of Russia. He’s the leader of the Katusha squad, scheduled to will compete in the Tour of California for the first time.

Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx–Quick-Step) of France, the 2015 TOC runner-up, will compete as will Rohan Dennis (BMC) of Australia, the 2015 USA Pro Challenge winner in Colorado. Dennis claimed the first stage of the 2015 Tour de France in the fastest time trial ever recorded in the event.

Bradley Wiggins, also of Great Britain, who won the 2012 Tour de France and 2014 Tour of California, will also return with a young team of compatriots preparing the Summer Olympics.

American Megan Guernier, the current U.S. road titlist, and compatriots Kristin Armstrong, the two-time Olympic gold medalist, and Evelyn Stevens, who recently set the UCI women’s hour record are among leading women entrants.

Here’s the list of men’s and women’s teams competing in the 2016 Tour of California:

Men

BMC Racing Team (USA), Cannondale, (USA), Etixx–Quick-Step (BEL), Dimension Data for Qhubeka (RSA), Giant–Alpecin (GER), KATUSHA (RUS), Lotto NL–Jumbo (NED), Sky (GBR), Tinkoff (RUS), Trek–Segafredo (USA), Direct Énergie (FRA), Novo Nordisk (USA), UnitedHealthcare (USA), Axeon Hagens Berman, Holowesko-Citadel p/b Hincapie Sportswear (USA), Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis (USA), Rally Cycling (USA), Team WIGGINS (GBR).

Women

BePink (ITA), Boels-Dolmans (NED), Canyon/SRAM (GER), Colavita-Bianchi p/b Vittoria (USA), Cylance (USA),Drops (GBR), Hagens Berman-Supermint (USA),Hitec Products (NOR),Inpa-Bianchi (ITA), Podium Ambition p/b Club La Santa (GBR), Rabo-Liv (NED), Rally Cycling (USA), TIBCO-SVB (USA), Twenty16–Ridebiker, UnitedHealthcare, USA Cycling (USA), Visit Dallas DNA (USA), Weber Shimano Ladies Power (ARG), Wiggle High5 (GBR).

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