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Cyclist Lance Armstrong mum on California race with Merced stop

Lance Armstrong's comeback plans include the Tour of California -- putting the cycling great in three Valley cities in February as he begins his quest for an eighth Tour de France title in July.

The Tour of California includes Merced, Clovis and Visalia as host cities - Stage 5 on Feb. 18 starts in Merced and ends in Clovis. Stage 6 on Feb. 19 begins in Visalia and ends in Paso Robles.

Armstrong will ride for the Astana team as he seeks to win the 2009 Tour de France, the Kazakh Cycling Federation said Wednesday. Federation deputy chief Nikolai Proskurin told The Associated Press that Armstrong agreed to ride for the Kazakhstan-based team for free the first year and has signed up to take part in five races.

The 37-year-old Armstrong's first race will be the Tour of California from Feb. 14-22, Proskurin said. Armstrong was to make a formal announcement at a news conference in New York later Wednesday.